Are PSATs Important?

Yes. And no.

The PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) is essentially a practice SAT administered every October to most high school juniors and at some schools, to sophomores. The test isn’t used as a part of college admissions assessment, meaning, a student’s PSAT score isn’t sent to colleges or universities. For juniors, however, the score can provide merit. Literally.

Here’s some information for students and families who are wondering whether they should worry about the PSAT (I’m joking. Never worry about standardized tests.):

National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC)

This non-profit was founded in 1955 when the US was worried that the country was “lagging behind in the Cold War scientific race” and academic excellence wasn’t being sufficiently rewarded – and encouraged. It was then that the National Merit Scholarship Program began to celebrate, and fund, students who wanted to pursue their intellectual interests at top colleges and universities nationwide. Now, being deemed a National Merit Scholar is an honor gleaned only with high PSAT scores. There’s money on the table waiting to be claimed, juniors!

Indicator of Strengths & Weaknesses

Some students gain valuable data about where they need some academic shoring up and where they’re tracking just fine. In other words, areas that could improve via extra help from teachers or afterschool tutoring and areas where they’re excelling. The latter can be valuable information when deciding which AP or Honors classes to take junior year.

PSAT Practice Can Make Perfect… or Perfect-ish

When it comes to standardized testing, the only confirmed indicator of test-day performance is to take practice tests. Lots of them. As many as a student can stand to take. Preferably in outside-of-the-home environments with test-day distractions and unknowns. The PSAT can offer that perfect blend of a serious and not-serious test-taking experience since the test is generally held at a student’s school (serious) and yet isn’t sent to colleges (not-serious).

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