PSAT desks resized 600One of the biggest questions educators have about SAT test prep is regarding the importance of the PSAT test. The PSAT is a practice test that is taken in the spring of a student’s sophomore year or fall of their junior year. Since it doesn’t count for the official SAT score, many students wonder if they should spend their time taking one of the many PSAT tests offered each year.

Why is the PSAT important?

There are several reasons why the PSAT is a smart move for sophomores and juniors.

Scholarships and college money – The biggest reason that students should take the PSAT is free college money! Juniors who take the PSAT during their fall semester can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation scholarship programs. This scholarship program offers awards based on academic performance and the PSAT score. When students take the exam in their junior year (and score well) they can lock in a scholarship to help pay for their college education.

Familiarization with the test format – Even an advanced online test prep software can’t mimic the feeling of sitting down and taking the test. Taking the PSAT can help students adjust to the test format and the real world experience of taking the SAT without the fear of scoring poorly. The more a student practices, the more comfortable they’ll be when the real test comes around.

Focused SAT prep - The PSAT can help students understand their strengths and weaknesses on the test. You should advise students to take the test the spring of their sophomore year so they have plenty of time to work on subjects and question types that they struggle with. It can help them focus their study time and get better results. Then they can take it again the fall of their junior year in order to test what they’ve learned and get even more focused on areas for improvement.

Advanced information from colleges – When students take the PSAT, they can opt in to receive information from colleges that are seeking out admission. This can help students understand their school choices and set goals for college admissions.

What Students Need to Know About the PSAT

Obviously, the PSAT is a smart move for college sophomores and juniors. The PSAT test is very similar to the SAT, with a few key differences. The former is just two hours long, which is less than the regular SAT. There are two twenty-five minute Verbal sections, two twenty-five minute Math sections and a 30 minute Writing Skills section.

Although the test is shorter, the PSAT covers all of the same question types that are on the SAT. This gives students an opportunity to practice everything they’ll need on the real test. Starting early with the PSAT can set students up for success on the real test, and help them focus their test prep.