PSAT 101: What You and Your Child Need to Know

If you had the chance to read our blog last month about understanding how tests are just one tool to measure your child’s school experience, you may be wondering how standardized testing comes into play. It’s true – standardized testing starts as early as elementary school and continues well into college preparation phase. This month, we wanted to educate you on a test you might be hearing a lot about lately – the PSAT.

What is the PSAT?

The PSAT is a test offered to high school students as a way to measure what they have learned so far in high school and estimate what they will need to succeed in college. The PSAT prides itself in a test that isn’t based in memorization, but instead grounded in real world reading and evidence-based reading questions. Sections test reading, writing, language and math.

The test recently had an overhaul, with the new PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 testing students for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

When is the PSAT?

Fall testing dates for the PSAT are in the month of October, with a Wednesday session (October 19) and a Saturday session (October 15) already past. An alternate day is also set for November 2. Talk to your school counselor if you have questions about specific dates or requests.

Should my student take the PSAT?

It depends. Typically, students take the PSAT their Junior year of high school. These are the scores that are submitted for National Merit and other scholarship programs.

“Even though the PSAT was originally made for Juniors,” says Nika Fouquet, Education Consultant at Tutor Doctor Santa Monica, “we strongly recommend Sophomores consider taking the PSAT as well. It’s a great way to get the feel for the test and can be a valuable indicator on what the student could work more on heading into the test Junior year.”

Taking the test a year early can also prove to be a confidence booster. “Students with or without test anxiety can always benefit from extra testing practice,” says Fouquet. If your child has the opportunity to take the PSAT earlier than their Junior year, it is certainly worth it to take advantage.

What might the results mean for my child?

As we have said before, testing is just one tool or lens to use to evaluate your child’s education. In terms of the PSAT, this test gives an outlook on how the child is doing so far. It does use SAT scoring, which can be beneficial when looking at admissions criteria for some of your child’s choice colleges. You can use this information to determine where some improvement opportunities lie before taking the SAT or ACT. Further, depending on your child’s PSAT score, he or she may be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship.

The PSAT is a wonderful practice opportunity to prepare for some major upcoming tests, such as the SAT and ACT. If your child is a Junior, have them take the test. If your child is a Sophomore, definitely consider it!