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How 10th and 11th graders can make the most of the PSAT

For most it's a valuable practice run, but for the top 1% of juniors it may just open doors to generous scholarship dollars. 

Who should take the PSAT

It depends on your goal. There are three main objectives for 10th and 11th graders taking the PSAT each October:

  • Guidance in choosing between the ACT and SAT
  • Practice for the SAT
  • National Merit Scholarships

Tips for PSAT Test Day

The test is 2 hours and 45 minutes, so it's just shy of being as long as a 3 hour SAT and 3 hour 10 minute ACT. It's rare students get to sit for a test this long, so taking it is excellent practice for the endurance it takes on the ACT and SAT.

There are 4 sections all of which contain only multiple choice questions:

  • READING: 50 minutes | 48 questions
  • WRITING & LANGUAGE: 35 minutes | 44 questions
  • NO-CALCULATOR MATH: 25 minutes | 13 questions
  • CALCULATOR MATH: 45 minutes | 27 questions

There is no penalty for wrong answers, so students should attempt to answer every questions even if it's a blind guess. 

Running out of time? Pick a column and bubble it in through the end of the test. An extra point or two may be earned and you'll have a visual reminder on your score report of where you ran out of time. 

PSAT Scores

Unlike the ACT and SAT which have a fairly quick 10 to 14 day turn around on getting scores, PSAT scores won't be available until December. Yes, a whole two months after the test. Students scores are available in their online account on the Collegeboard site

A perfect score is 1520. The PSAT and SAT are concorded which means a student earning a 1230 on the PSAT is predicted to earn the same on the SAT. This is valuable information. 

Choosing Between SAT and ACT & Great Practice

A crucial step in getting maximized scores on ACT and SAT is each student knowing their test of strength. PSAT scores when compared to an diagnostic ACT (or actual ACT) are a terrific indicator of which test the student is better suited for. All colleges equally accept both the SAT and ACT, so trying both via unofficial means is valuable. 

LEAP's ACT and SAT Score Converter will point your student in the right direction when you input scores. 

Need a diagnostic test? LEAP has you covered for free. Look at upcoming options here or if you can't find a date that work, contact us for an on-demand option

Any time a student sits for a PSAT or diagnostic ACT or SAT it's fantastic endurance and exposure practice. Plus the resulting score reports will point students in the direction of what they can improve before an official test through test prep.

National Merit Scholarship Program

Students who take the PSAT in the junior year and meet the qualifying score for their state may just find out in September of the senior year they have qualified for National Merit. This can open doors for scholarships and college entrance. Learn more here in a previous LEAP blog.

Sophomores who take the PSAT can use their baseline Selection Index score to effectively prep leading to the junior year PSAT when the scores will count for National Merit qualification since only scores from the junior year will qualify a student. These same scores are useful in future ACT and SAT future planning and prep.

If a student misses the PSAT because of illness, an emergency, or other extenuating circumstance, but meets all other requirements for NMSC program participation, may still be able to enter the competition through an alternate pathway if they notify National Merit no later than April 1 of the junior year. 

Regardless of your reason why,

the PSAT is a great opportunity for most students. 

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