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Four Myths About the PSAT

SAT study books
SAT study books

Many high school sophomores and juniors recently received their PSAT scores.  Some probably looked at their score sheet, shrugged their shoulders, and then tossed it into the pile of “college stuff” on their bedroom floor, or worse, threw it away. Others may have excitedly scoured their score sheet, trying to gauge how well they did.  Those students might be asking, “Am I a National Merit Scholarship contender?” and “Will my SAT scores be close to what I need for my first choice college?”

PSAT scores are going to mean different things to different students.  Some students will use the score to determine how much time they’ll need to spend preparing for the SAT.  Other students will use the scores to begin looking at colleges and will select colleges that fall within their predicted SAT score ranges.  Either way, the PSAT is a valuable tool for students who are beginning the college search process.  But what do the scores mean?  What do you do with them after you receive them? 

The majority of students simply do not have enough information to know what to do with their PSAT scores.  Read below as we debunk four common myths about the PSAT and learn how you can take full advantage of the information provided with your score.

PSAT scores really don’t matter

While it is true that colleges will not see your PSAT scores when reviewing applications, students still should pay attention to their scores.  PSAT scores can help students gauge how prepared they are for the SAT.  Also, students who take the PSAT score an average of 145 points higher on the SAT.  So, practice never hurts.

You don’t need to prepare for the PSAT

  Students who take the test during their sophomore year and receive a score that is close to the National Merit Selection Index score for their state may, want to consider putting in a little practice before taking the PSAT their junior year. Not only do hundreds of colleges guarantee scholarships to National Merit Finalists, this recognition is also something that colleges love to see on applications.

Add a zero to your score and that is your predicted SAT score

Based on this theory, if a student scored a 49 on the Critical Reading section of the PSAT, they will more than likely score a 490 on the Critical Reading section of the SAT.  While this is a common assumption, it is not necessarily true.  PSAT scores are actually meant to provide a range of predicted scores, since you cannot predict an exact score based on one day of test taking. Students can refer to the My College Quick Start program offered by College Board in order to learn specific details about the range of their predicted SAT scores. For example, a student with a 49 on the Critical Reading section of the PSAT has a predicted SAT score of 460 to 560.

Your score is all that matters

While students, counselors, parents, etc. often use the PSAT as a gauge for the SAT, it can also be used provide the student with more information about what skills they need to improve.  On the score report, there is a breakdown of skills for the Critical Reading, Math and Writing Sections.  Students can see what specific areas (or questions) they struggled with and focus on building those skills.  On My College Quick Start, students can even find a personalized SAT Study plan, which reviews the questions they missed

In order to take full advantage of your PSAT score, students should log in to My College Quick Start. For information on this program and how to access it, see your score sheet.)   As mentioned above, students can use this personalized program to find out more about their scores and what they need to do to improve their SAT scores.  Students can also research potential colleges and explore information on majors.
So don’t completely ignore your PSAT scores.  Taking time to figure out what your scores mean can help you narrow down what you need to do to prepare for the SAT .
Katherine Price
Educational Consultant


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