Getting the Most Out of Your Score: Learning From the PSAT

What is the PSAT? The PSAT is a practice SAT administered by the College Board and available to students in grades 8 through 11, with the PSAT 8/9 offered to 8th and 9th graders and the PSAT 10/PSAT NMSQT (identical tests) offered to 10th and 11th graders. The PSAT serves 3 important purposes: it helps students predict, learn, and qualify.   Predicting with the PSAT Since its 2016 revision, the PSAT 10/PSAT NMSQT has become a better-than-ever instrument at predicting the SAT. This is true in part because the PSAT now comes very close to a full-length SAT, covering nearly identical content in almost the same amount of time. Evidence-based Reading & Writing PSAT’s Reading is almost identical to SAT’s, except PSAT Reading is 5 questions fewer and 5 minutes shorter.   PSAT’s Writing & Language is the same as SAT’s. Mathematics PSAT’s no-calculator section is 3 questions fewer than SAT’s but offers same amount of time. PSAT’s calculator section features 7 questions fewer in 10 fewer minutes. The Essay The SAT optional essay is NOT offered at all on the PSAT. The table below offers a side-by-side of the construct and content of both exams.   15 questions, 15 minutes In short, the PSAT is only 15 questions fewer and 15 minutes shorter than the SAT, in terms of the material that contributes to a student’s composite score. Note: the SAT essay does NOT impact the student’s composite score, so its absence on the PSAT is not critical. The table below offers another view of the close comparison between the PSAT & SAT. Good News for Students The close comparison of the PSAT and SAT is good news for students. From both a content and experience standpoint, taking the PSAT prepares a student for the material covered on the full-length SAT as well as the experience of sitting for a lengthy exam and concentrating on rigorous academic material for approximately 3 hours. It wasn’t always this way! Before the 2016 revision, the PSAT from 2005 to 2015 was approximately one half the length of the full-length SAT, denying a student a complete picture of the marathon test-taking experience that the SAT demanded. What’s more, learning from the PSAT is possible  year over year. Because the PSAT system offers testing from 8th grade to 11th grade, if a school district offers that testing, a student can have a transparent view of where he or she is tracking towards 11th grade. In fact, College Board has tiered the scoring on the test to help make a more accurate prediction of exactly where the student would be on the SAT at that point in their academic career.    The detail below shows the tiered scoring of the PSAT from 8th grade through the 11th grade PSAT/NMSQT. Learning from the PSAT Learning from the PSAT is the most important reason for students to take the test. As a low-stakes diagnostic test, it can be directional, putting students on a productive path towards focused [...]