The PSAT is a test that is given in October every year and it is primarily geared to juniors in high school. Many schools are now having sophomores take the PSAT as well just so these students have an earlier experience with the kinds of questions they will see on the SAT.
The PSAT is very similar to the SAT with a few important differences. One is the length of the exam- the PSAT is not nearly as long as the SAT. Students need to realize that the SAT is a much more mentally grueling test due to its length. Also, the PSAT does not contain an essay question. So students will not be writing an essay as part of the PSAT.
There is an easy way to equate a PSAT score to an SAT score- you just add a zero to each two-digit PSAT score. So if a student scored a 45 on the PSAT Reading section, that score would equate to a 450 in the SAT Reading section. Students will get a two-digit reading score, a two-digit math score, and a two-digit writing score on the PSAT and will also get a percentile so they can easily compare their scores to other students in their grade.
The most important reason to take the PSAT is to see exactly which kinds of questions are giving you trouble so you can prepare more effectively for the SAT. A student’s answer sheet and PSAT test booklet are mailed back to them in December. The shame is that many students do not even look over which questions they missed on the PSAT when they are preparing to take the SAT.
Many students hear that they should take the PSAT to see if they can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship but the percentage of students earning such scholarships is very low. A student can do extremely well on the PSAT and still not earn a scholarship. Therefore, the main reason for a student to take the PSAT is so they have an effective tool to help them prepare for the SAT.
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