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The PSAT: More Than Just A “Practice” Test

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When parents and students think about the PSAT/NMSQT, the term “practice test” often comes to mind. However, this important exam should be seen as much more than just a preliminary version of the SAT. Here are Tutor Doctor's reasons why parents and students might want to take a closer look at the PSAT!

1) There are multiple versions of the PSAT test. Most students are not aware that there are actually three versions of the PSAT:

  • PSAT 8/9: This version of the PSAT is targeted towards 8th and 9th grade students. This means students can begin to practice as early as middle school / junior high.
  • PSAT 10: This version of the PSAT is meant for 10th grade students. This test is used by scholarship programs to seek out eligible students – although they won't qualify for a scholarship just yet.
  • PSAT/NMSQT: This is the version most people mean when they refer to the “PSAT.” Meant for 11th (and some 10th) grade students, scoring highly on this test can net you some serious scholarship opportunities. More on this later!

2) You can't beat the price for all the practice you'll get in return. When it really comes down to it, the PSAT is meant to be an affordable way to practice the SAT. Here are the current prices – although some tests may even be free as many schools cover the costs!

  • PSAT 8/9: $11
  • PSAT 10: $16
  • PSAT/NMSQT: $16

Essentially, this means a student can take all three versions of the PSAT for $43. That's certainly not bad for three practice tests, especially considering the price of a single SAT admission ticket is currently $64.50.

3) It's the best way to get a feel for the test-taking experience. Standardized tests, especially the SAT, are quite a bit different than the exams students are accustomed to taking in school. The check-in process, preparing materials, photo ID verification, admission into the testing area – all these are required steps that are better to get used to early on. Already knowing the process can help to take the edge off when you take the real SAT!

4) There are numerous scholarship opportunities available. Students tend to forget that the final 11th grade PSAT is really called the PSAT/NMSQT – the second section of the test's title meaning National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Here's a few things you might not know about the NMSQT:

  • Taking the PSAT/NMSQT enters you into the National Merit Scholarship Program, an academic competition that focuses on providing scholarships to high-achieving students.
  • 7,500 students will become Merit Scholarship winners, receiving funds from the National Merit Program as well as hundreds of college and corporate sponsors.
  • Many colleges are partnered with the National Merit Program, and these higher institutions actually have a minimum number of scholarships they give away to award winners each year.
  • The combined value of scholarships offered this year under the National Merit Program is over $42 million.

These are just some of the reasons why students should take a closer look at the PSAT/NMSQT. Your scores may very well net you a scholarship, so we recommend treating it as more than just a “practice” test!

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