Both sophomores and juniors alike are eligible to take the PSAT, and sophomore year is an excellent time for students to begin their exposure to standardized testing, in order to best understand any potential strengths and weaknesses. While sophomore year is a great jumping off point for the PSAT, it is during a student’s junior year that he or she may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship competition.
Below are a few issues to consider as you decide how best to prepare your student for PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, College Entrance Exams, and applications.
· Assess Your Student’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Taking the PSAT in both sophomore and junior years can help students determine where their skills and aptitude are best showcased. Though the Junior Year results of the PSAT/NMSQT are vital in qualifying for scholarships and National Merit Finalist status, it also serves another purpose: helping students understand their performance and where they might improve. An especially useful attribute of the PSAT is that, along with their scores, students will have access to the actual PSAT test booklets they used. By reviewing problem areas, or the areas where students spent too little or too much time, students and tutors can build a dynamic, customized strategy to prep for the SAT. Students are also able to quickly, and without much effort, request information from colleges of potential interest. Furthermore, students are able to see what requirements a particular university may have, in order to better prepare for the college application process.
· Determine How a Student Will Do On the SAT
Students are also able to use the PSAT to predict how they will do on the SAT. Both the PSAT and SAT are on the same vertical scale, though their ranges differ slightly. Math and Verbal Skills Sections range from 160 to 760 on the PSAT, while on the SAT they range from 200 to 800. This means that a score of 500 on a PSAT section could predict an equivalency of 500 on the SAT section. The final score on both the PSAT and SAT is the sum of both sections (Math and Verbal). Likewise, the maximum scores are 1520 for the PSAT and 1600 for the SAT. Don’t forget: though the essay portion of the SAT is optional, participation is recommended for students applying to competitive schools.
· Learn About the National Merit Scholarship Process
Sophomores that received high overall scores on their PSAT, along with a high Selection Index Score, should also consider preparing to take the PSAT again during their junior year, in order to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship process. About 1.5 million students participate in the National Merit Scholarship process every year, but only those who score in the top 4% (beyond a certain threshold, which varies by state) on the PSAT/NMSQT will qualify to be National Merit participants. This represents about 50,000 students that will qualify for any kind of National Merit Program recognition. In order for these participants to continue on to the next phase of the process, they must meet certain academic requirements specified by the NMSC. Becoming a Finalist involves completing a follow-up application and taking the SAT within a year of their qualifying PSAT date. The finalists are determined in March of the student’s graduating year.
· Learn About Your Student’s National Merit Scholarship Options
In addition to qualifying for a variety of scholarships offered though the NMSC (totaling $43 million), National Merit Semifinalists and Finalists are typically awarded larger scholarship sums. What’s more, they are often solicited as applicants by the 1,100+ colleges and universities that are privy to a student’s PSAT results—that is, if your student opts in to the College Board’s Student Search Service, free of charge.
While this introductory phase of the college test prep process might seem somewhat overwhelming as scores begin to roll in, the PSAT offers a unique opportunity for students to make their mark from the get-go. At Achieve Academics, we provide an array of PSAT, SAT, and ACT prep for students, including small group classes, one-on-one tutoring, and fully customized study strategies. No matter what your child’s learning style, strengths, weaknesses, or goals may be, the PSAT is a perfect entry point in which to build positive prep habits and create real results.
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