Blog
April 4th, 2019

PSAT Primer for Accelerated Students

Everyone knows that high SAT or ACT scores can be rewarded with scholarships, tuition assistance and other great benefits. But the PSAT can also be worth money if you test exceptionally well. Standardized testing is a part of every high school student’s path to college. For strong students who are accelerated in their coursework, preparing for an SAT or ACT before taking the PSAT can be a savvy option. Besides getting an early start on test preparation before junior year becomes busy with AP work and extracurricular activities, early test prep can also ready a student for the PSAT and possible National Merit recognition and money.

About 1.6 million U.S. students take the PSAT each year. However, only scores achieved during junior year are eligible for National Merit rewards. If you score in the top 3 to 4% of PSAT test takers in your state, you move on to the Commended Scholar level. Every state’s required score is different and changes each year, depending on what scores are produced that given year. “Commended Scholar” is a nice line on your college application resume and your PSAT journey is over.

But let’s say you score really well and are in the top 1% of your state’s test takers – congratulations! You are then considered one of about 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists. That’s an even better line to put on your application, just from scoring exceptionally well on the PSAT.

Here is the tricky part. Those 16,000 National Merit Scholars are asked to take either the SAT or ACT and score high enough to validate that their PSAT score wasn’t a fluke. (The ACT option was just added for the class of 2020!) Also, there is an application package to complete, which includes an essay.

About 8,000 (or half) of these National Merit Scholars will be given money. Some will earn $2,500 as a one-time payment straight from the National Merit organization. Some will get money right from their intended college. Others can earn money from corporate sponsors – typically $10,000 divided into four payments. Colleges may even reward National Merit Finalists in addition to the student getting a corporate scholarship. Click here for more information about the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Here’s where early test preparation can help a serious student excel not only on the SAT/ACT but also on the PSAT. In my personal experience, my son took an ACT preparation course at the end of his sophomore year and got a great first score on the June ACT. With additional preparation and practice, he achieved a perfect score on the ACT in the fall of his junior year. Trying the PSAT was easier because he already knew how to attack a standardized test. He seriously prepared for these tests and was rewarded for his efforts. First, he received a presidential scholarship from the University at Buffalo, then as a National Merit Scholar, and finally, he received an additional $1500 award from the college when the National Merit money was applied during his freshman year. It certainly added up!  Additionally, prepping early in junior year avoids a heavy load in the spring during AP exam testing and finals.

The PSAT can be more than a warm-up for the SAT; it can be an avenue to additional accolades and money for college. If your teen is accelerated in their high school coursework and ready to prepare for college testing diligently, Test Preps can help! Contact us well before their junior year to discuss how they can benefit from early preparation for the SAT or ACT.

*Thank you to my colleague Donna for sharing her wealth of knowledge and her son’s PSAT experience in this guest post!
December 6th, 2018

Coming Soon: PSAT Scores! Now what?

College Board releases PSAT scores on December 10th in New York! 

While you’re waiting for your scores, make valuable use of your time and try a practice ACT, if you haven’t already done so. Look online to find free options to take a practice test. Make sure you strictly time yourself and answer every question. There is no penalty for wrong answers, so guess before time runs out! You can also find online options to try a free, abbreviated ACT to get a predictive score.

Once you have PSAT and practice ACT scores, you have data to decide which test may be better for you. Remember – ALL colleges accept scores from both SAT and ACT. By preparing for just one test, you will save time and money! Not sure which test is the one for you? College Board (SAT) and ACT collaborated on Concordance Tables with equivalent scores. If your scores are similar, go with the test you felt most comfortable with. Check out Test Preps’ ACT vs. SAT chart to help you decide.

Didn’t do as well as you hoped on the PSAT? Rest assured that the PSAT scores are never released to colleges. It is strictly practice and you should use score report details to see what you are doing well and what you need to work on. Remember, this is a process; the PSAT is just the first step. Feel free to contact us if you need help interpreting results. We are here to help you start your test prep journey!

©2024 Test Preps, Inc. All Rights Reserved. SAT® is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this product. ACT® is the registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Test Preps has no affiliation with ACT, Inc., which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this product. Test names and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with Test Preps or this website.