PSAT scores were just released. Now what?
What’s the PSAT?
Simply put, the PSAT is a practice SAT.
The SAT (and its main competitor, the ACT) are tests colleges use to evaluate applicants.
The PSAT attempts to accurately predict how a student will perform on the SAT. It also covers the same subject matter, and uses the same multiple choice question format with a hand-bubbled answer sheet.
There are a few differences: The PSAT Is (1) a little bit shorter than the SAT, (2) doesn’t include an essay and (3) doesn’t count for college admissions.
One other minor difference is that the PSAT is the first step toward qualifying for a National Merit Scholarship.
What’s National Merit Scholarship?
Every year 7,500 students across the US are awarded $2,500 and the prestigious distinction of being a National Merit Scholar. To apply, your child needs to be a junior, take the PSAT, and qualify with a certain PSAT score. A qualifying score depends on your state, but it’s generally the top 1% of national test takers.
You can check to see if your child’s score qualifies for the National Merit Scholarship on the online PSAT Score Report. Scroll down to the NMSC Selection Index Section to see if your child qualifies.
How can you use the PSAT to get ready for college?
The most important thing you learn by getting your PSAT scores is how competitive of an applicant your child is likely to be at a target college. You can look up the SAT entry scores for any college easily in Google.
How do I read a PSAT score report?
As mentioned, the PSAT is very similar to the SAT. If you have your PSAT score report, grab it and follow along. If you need a copy, you can access scores on the College Board website.
The most important number on your child’s score report is the Total Score in the middle. This number gives you an idea of how your child might fare on the SAT if they were to take it today, and as such is useful for helping set a goal for the SAT. All great plans include a goal, so having this number is fantastic, because it helps you set an ambitious and attainable goal for the SAT.
The PSAT, like the SAT, is split into two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (on the left) and Math (on the right). On the PSAT, each section is scored out of 760, and on the SAT, each Test is scored out of 800. Don’t do any adjustment for this. A 500 on the PSAT is designed to be exactly a 500 on the SAT, the ranges are just lower for statistical reasons.
Now, the reason why you care about sub scores is that learning requires self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses. One of the great things about the PSAT is that it is standardized, and therefore objective. For that reason, it’s a very useful tool for putting a stake in the ground, which is the first step toward improvement.
So, look at the bold numbers on the left and the right of the page. The higher numbers show your area of strength, and the lower number is your area of weakness. You can improve your composite score the most, and also become a more well-rounded person in general by improving your weak area.
Using the score report to go deep into strengths and weaknesses
If you want to dig deeper into the score report, you can get more information on strengths and weaknesses in smaller categories. No matter how your child preps for the SAT, they will want to brush up on math, reading and writing skills. But the PSAT Score Report also gives insights into why your child’s total score was what it was.
You can see a breakdown of content areas such as Command of Evidence, or Problem Solving and Data Analysis.
This type of granular information is essential for putting together a prep plan based on specific weak areas. One of Testive’s key principles of successful prep is to identify your child’s weaknesses and focus on them. Seems logical, but without the right guidance, you wouldn’t believe how many students fall into the trap of wasting time going through questions that they already know. A Testive Coach breaks your child’s test performance down into content areas and builds a custom curriculum which in turn can lead to significant score improvement.
I’m the parent of a sophomore. What should I do next?
If you’re the parent of a sophomore who has taken the PSAT, you are right on track. The best time to prepare for the SAT is the summer after Sophomore year. Here are two things you can do right now:
- Mark your child’s calendar now for either the August 25th or October 6th SAT.
- Book a prep program now that starts right after school lets out for the summer, and prepares for that test. You can talk to someone at Testive and pick a tutor for your child now.
I’m the parent of a junior. What should I do next?
If you are the parent of a junior, then you have two steps:
- Pick a test date. We recommend choosing between the March 10th, May 5th and June 2nd test dates.
- Pick a prep program that starts right now and get started as soon as possible. During the school year, a typical prep program is 3 to 5 months, and there are just 3 months until the March 10th SAT, so every week matters right now.