The PSAT will be given to area high school juniors (and younger students in some districts) on Wednesday, October 11. But does this test really matter? Should you take it seriously? Is it something students should prepare for so that you do well?
Do Colleges Care About the PSAT?
The PSAT is not used directly by colleges and universities when they make their college admissions decisions.
Your acceptance or rejection into college is much more dependent on the SAT or ACT , so the short answer is “no,” colleges don’t care at all about the PSAT. An abysmal score on the PSAT will not have any direct effect on your chances of getting into a college.
When the PSAT Does Matter
You definitely want to keep PSAT scores in perspective. A low score will not be seen by colleges, so even if you don’t perform well you haven’t hurt your chances of getting into a top college or university. That said, a strong score on the PSAT can have significant advantages:
- Your scores on the PSAT are used for awarding many scholarships including about 7,500 National Merit Scholarships, but to put National Merit into perspective: only a fraction of one percent of students become semi-finalists, and then only some of them see scholarship money.
- The PSAT is quite similar to the SAT, so the exam will give you a good indication of your level of preparedness for the SAT. If you do poorly on the PSAT, this is a sign that you need to do some meaningful preparation before taking the SAT. The score results include item by item response for each student…was their answer correct? Incorrect? And it offers recommended study resources based on those answers.
Unlike the SAT or ACT which both return test scores in 2-3 weeks, the PSAT results won’t be distributed until mid-December. Those score reports are sent directly to high schools so students might not actually get them until after winter holiday break. College Board says online scores will be available to students on December 12.
This will be too late for students who chose to take the ‘real’ SAT or the ACT in December, but may be useful for students who will be taking those exams in Spring 2017. Interesting in private tutoring to help you maximize your potential? Click here.
After taking the PSAT, colleges will begin sending unsolicited mail to high school students. Most of these will be what we call “frisbee in the grass” postcards and should end up in the recycling bin. But some are useful to introduce students to unknown colleges or to get more information about ones that they are considering.
So to sum up, if you are an exceptional student and test-taker and might qualify for National Merit, then you should prep for the PSAT. If not, take it seriously so it will help you prepare for the real thing: the SAT or ACT.
Want some practice?
Understanding Your PSAT Scores: