This is the first part of my series on the PSAT. It’s a high level look at the PSAT, its importance, and what it means.
Every autumn 10th graders across the country take the PSAT at their schools. Ours was no different and for months we’ve been waiting on the scores to come in. When I took the PSAT the only thing we could do was wait. Google didn’t exist and I wouldn’t have my first email address until three years later when I enrolled in college. Students can provide an email address to the College Board when taking the PSAT. Using his email address and school name, my son signed up for an account at the College Board and we were able to access his PSAT scores weeks before they would be delivered to high schools.
Why take the PSAT?
With the increasing burden of college expenses, achieving a high score on the PSAT can help students take a lot of stress out of the college admissions and the financial aid process.
The PSAT is a precursor to the SAT, letting educators, parents and children know where they are on the road to college preparedness. It may also be more important than the SAT according to some. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation* uses PSAT scores to qualify semifinalists who are then considered for the National Merit Scholarship competition. This recognition program provides a monetary award and can often be leveraged to secure additional scholarships.
PSAT scores are indicative of how a student will perform on the SAT. These scores tell students how prepared they are and allow them to concentrate on their weakest areas in order to improve their scores for the SAT.
How is it weighted?
PSAT scores are weighted similarly to the SAT with a total score which is close in alignment to the SAT. The SAT ranges for total scores is 400-1600 (Scores for the SAT Essay are reported separately and are not part of a student’s total SAT score) where the PSAT ranges 320-1520.
There are two section scores for the PSAT: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. It’s a nice big picture look at your child’s scores. The assessment then breaks everything down into subscores for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math, all ranging from 1 to 15 points. These subscores provide more detail about student achievement.
The Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test each contribute questions to two subscores:
• Command of Evidence
• Words in Context
The Writing and Language Test also reports two additional subscores:
• Expression of Ideas
• Standard English Conventions
The Math Test reports three subscores:
• Heart of Algebra
• Problem Solving and Data Analysis
• Passport to Advanced Math (SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 10 only)
What does all of this mean?
Now that you have your student’s PSAT scores in hand, you can look at areas where your student needs improvement. For example, one of my son’s areas that he needed to work was math that he had not used since he was in 7th grade. He consistently had issues in that area on the test and knows he will need to study that section more than others before he retakes the PSAT and the SAT.
PSAT scores (as well as the SAT and PSAT 10) are also used to provide information for AP Potential. This program identifies students who are likely to succeed in AP courses and on AP Exams. There is a version of the PSAT offered to 8th and 9th graders which also identifies the same potential to succeed in AP World History and AP European History. (Two classes most often offered to 10th graders.)
Universities use the PSAT as a tool to help identify students they think may be a good addition to their student body and deserving of scholarships. Colleges start the process of reaching out to students via the College Board based on PSAT scores to gauge student interest.
We’re now looking at dates for Thomas to take the PSAT this fall, followed soon after by the SAT. My husband and I are meeting with his school guidance counselor tomorrow to discuss his PSAT scores, prepping for both tests and creating a balanced high school schedule that will challenge him, but leaves time for extra-carriculars and to be a normal kid.
My next post will be a continuation covering PSAT preparation. Do you have any questions? Please let me know if the comments.
*In order for students to enter into the National Merit Scholarship Competition, they have to take the PSAT their junior year.