The PSAT/NMSQT: Its Purpose & Benefits

The following is a repost of an essay written by our founder, Matthew Pietrafetta, for the blog last year. As the 2018 PSAT/NMSQT is just around the corner, we hope this is a helpful reminder of what the test is and the benefits of a good score. The PSAT/NMSQT is upon us! This College Board exam for 10th and 11th graders isn’t just a preliminary version of the exam they will take to qualify for college entrance. The PSAT is a big deal, not just a pre-big-deal – aiming for a strong PSAT score helps students (and their parents) do three critical things: predict, qualify, and learn.   Predicting performance with the PSAT Since its 2016 revision, the PSAT/NMSQT has become a better-than-ever predictor of the SAT. In almost every way, the PSAT looks, reads, and feels like a full-length SAT, covering nearly identical content in almost the same amount of time. Because of this, a strong PSAT score helps predict a strong SAT score. Evidence-based Reading & Writing PSAT’s Reading is almost identical to SAT’s, except PSAT Reading is five questions fewer and five minutes shorter.   PSAT’s Writing & Language is the same as SAT’s. Mathematics PSAT’s no-calculator section is three questions fewer than SATs but offers the same amount of time. PSAT’s calculator section features seven questions fewer in ten fewer minutes. PSAT Essay The SAT optional essay is NOT offered at all on the PSAT. The table below offers a side-by-side comparison of the structure and content of the two exams.   In short, the PSAT is only 15 questions fewer and 15 minutes shorter than the SAT (not counting the essay of course). 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 students for both the material covered on the full-length SAT as well as the experience of sitting for a lengthy and rigorous standardized test. A strong PSAT score predicts similar performance on the SAT. As a predictor, the PSAT can help students year over year. Because the new 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. Qualifying for scholarships with the PSAT A strong PSAT score can also help students earn recognition, and sometimes scholarship dollars, as either a commended scholar or a national merit scholar.   Each state has two cut-off thresholds (one for commended scholars, one for national merit) to qualify for these designations, which are determined by the fall of senior year. Many colleges offer scholarships associated with these honors, though PSAT scores are not typically provided to colleges as part of the application. See additional details in the table below. Learning to improve with the PSAT The most important function of the PSAT is to help students learn. So what’s the best way to [...]

By |2022-02-04T15:41:13+00:00October 9, 2018|One-on-One Tutoring, PSAT, SAT, Special|0 Comments

Communicating with Students About the PSAT/NMSQT

As high school teachers and administrators, you understand the importance of the PSAT/NMSQT. As standardized test experts, we also get it. Students, however, have widely varying information and opinions about the PSAT/NMSQT, and it usually falls to educators to help get them on the same page. With the big test on the horizon, here are several questions you may get from students and how to answer them. What’s the difference between the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT? NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and this version of the PSAT is given to juniors during the fall semester. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT your junior year might make you eligible for National Merit distinctions or scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship Program honors the students with the top 50,000 PSAT scores across the United States, but it’s not required for admission to college. The PSAT 10 is administered to sophomores in spring semester. The only difference between the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT is that students who take the PSAT 10 will not be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program (you must be a junior to qualify). What’s a good score? It depends on what you mean by “good.” The PSAT is scored between 320 and 1520, with a range of 160-760 for both Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). For reference, the SAT is scored between 400 and 1600, with a range of 200-800 for both Math and EBRW. The range for PSAT scores is slightly lower to account for the fact that it's a somewhat easier test than the SAT. The score you receive on the PSAT indicates the score you would get if you took the SAT instead on that same day. For example, a 500 in Math on the PSAT is a 500 in Math on the SAT. College Board’s College Readiness Benchmark is a 1010 Composite (480 EBRW and 530 Math). Benchmarks look at a range of courses across a range of institutions and determine when a typical student will get a C in those courses. In 2017, the national average PSAT score was a 1015. Based on the benchmark and average, a score of 1020 or above would be considered above average or “good”. But considering the PSAT is primarily practice, any score is a good score, as it allows you to understand what you need to improve for the SAT. When should I start practicing? Another "depends." If you’re within three months of the exam, go ahead and practice. It’s always a good idea to do a trial run before you sit for the one that counts… even if the one that counts is a trial run itself! However, if you’re over three months away, you’re better off preparing by working hard in your classes. You should pick up a lot of the skills you’ll need to be successful there. Don’t be discouraged with your scores, even if they’re below average. Many students haven’t yet learned a lot of the math that shows up on [...]

By |2022-02-04T15:43:06+00:00October 3, 2018|PSAT SP, School Programs, Special|0 Comments
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