When it comes to prepping for the SAT, most students and parents view the PSAT, or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, as a simple test-run of moderate importance. However, the PSAT—and your student’s results—wields more influence than you might realize. Though available to students in both their sophomore and junior years, the stakes get higher during 11th grade, when PSAT results hold weight.
Here are a few key ways in which the PSAT goes beyond its role as a simple “practice” test.
1. Becoming a National Merit Semifinalist
Perhaps the most desirable reason for students to perform well on the PSAT is that the results determine whether they qualify as National Merit Semifinalists. The PSAT designates the highest performing students in a state as semifinalists (who can ultimately become finalists). Semifinalists often qualify for large scholarships when it’s time to apply to college. Likewise, the title of National Merit Semifinalist (or Finalist) carries distinct weight when it appears on a college application.
After receiving their Semifinalist designation, students are invited to complete an application to achieve the title of National Merit Finalist. National Merit Finalists are likely to earn a high number of scholarships, as well as scholarships of greater value. Therefore, it’s possible that a student who performs well on the PSAT and earns his or her designation as a National Merit Finalist will be offered a better scholarship than a student who outperforms him or her on the actual SAT. That’s how important the PSAT can be in influencing scholarship awards.
2. The PSAT Can Put Students on the Collegiate Map
The College Board administers both the SAT and PSAT, and by opting into their Student Search Service—free of charge—over 1,100 colleges can view a student’s hard-won score on the PSAT and begin to court him or her as a result. Likewise, successful students may pre-qualify for a number of scholarships, as well as receive invitations to apply to colleges that might otherwise have flown under their radar.
3. Assessing Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Here’s where expectations align more closely with reality. As a preliminary test, the PSAT certainly functions as a barometer by which students and parents can determine weaknesses to address when tackling the SAT or ACT. Additionally, a solid performance on the PSAT can be a great confidence booster leading up the SAT, in combination with its practical role as a source of scholarships.
Even as a preliminary test, preparation for the PSAT is essential if a student wants to claim the title of National Merit Finalist. That’s why at Axios we offer a variety of resources to properly prepare students for the PSAT—including one-on-one tutoring, small group classes, and more. For students aiming to put their best foot forward in the college application process, there’s no better place to start than prepping for and acing the PSAT.