PSAT/NMSQT scores were posted by the College Board on Monday, December 12th. For many sophomores and juniors, this is probably their first foray into college application standardized testing.
Here's what the scores actually mean and how you can use them to guide you for next steps.
First of all, you should know that scores range from 320 - 1520, rather than being out of 1600 like the NEW SAT. The score report will also include a breakdown by section of how well your student did. These subscores help your student understand which areas are weak and should be worked on and which areas are strong.
Your student will also be given his or her percentile rank, which lets you know how your child compares to other students who took the test. For example, if your child scored in the 95th percentile, it means he or she scored better than 95% of the other students who took the test. The highest percentile is 99%.
Next, don't fret if your child's scores aren't where you want them to be. Colleges won't receive these scores, so they won't hurt your child's chances of getting into his or her dream school. Yes, the PSAT is meant to predict how your child will do on the NEW SAT, but it's definitely not too late to improve!
How to find out if your junior qualified for a National Merit Scholarship
The main significance of PSAT/NMSQT scores is qualification for the National Merit Scholarship. And, this only applies to juniors.
To see if your child qualifies, take a look at page three of the score report. There is a section titled "National Merit Scholarship Corporation." If there is an asterisk next to your child's index number, it means that unfortunately he or she does not qualify. The cutoff score varies from state to state, meaning that a student with a certain score in say, Iowa, could qualify for National Merit while a student in Massachusetts with the same score may not qualify. If your student does qualify, this unfortunately does not mean they will automatically receive a scholarship. For more information on the rest of the process, refer to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation's website.
If your child did not do as well as either of you hoped, there is still plenty of time to prep for the spring NEW SAT or ACT. The first step is to decide if your student would be more comfortable taking the NEW SAT or the ACT. We have an infographic comparing the two tests and our advice is to have your student take a practice test for both tests and get a feel for which test feels like a better fit.
The next step is to start prepping! Testive offers free adaptive and personalized prep software with questions for both the New SAT and ACT. Most questions also have in-depth explanations as well as video solutions.
If your student needs a bit more motivation, Testive also offers a paid Coaching program that helps motivate students to achieve their full potential.
Next steps for sophomores
First of all, don't be discouraged if the scores and/or percentile received was not what you or your child had hoped. Remember, sophomores are being compared against juniors who've had an extra year of school and are more likely to have prepped, since there are students who want to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
If your student is happy with his or her score, that's great. Congratulations! He or she should consider taking the PSAT again next year as a junior to try and qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
If your student is not happy with his or her score, no worries. There is still plenty of time to prepare for the next PSAT. The main reason your student should prep for the PSAT is if he or she wants to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
If this isn't a concern, we recommend gearing up to prep for the SAT or ACT starting the summer before their junior year, since that has a much bigger role in the college admissions process.
Sophomores will also have the option to take the PSAT 10 sometime from February to March. The test will be a bit easier than the PSAT/NMSQT, but it is still good practice for the NEW SAT.
If your student needs the extra practice in that strict testing environment, it might be a good idea. Otherwise, if there is a fee, it's probably not worth it. Some schools will cover the entire cost, others may require a fee for students to take the test. Dates will vary by school, so check with your child's school to see when (and if) it will be offered.
Overall, sophomores are better off spending their time doing things other than test prep as mentioned in this article: 4 College Application Tips for Freshmen and Sophomores (Infographic).