The PSAT: Think of It As A Prep Test


A blog by Ms. Megan Hoover, Director of College Counseling and Dean of Students

Tomorrow, October 11 Alverno Heights Academy students and high school students throughout the country will be facing the PSAT and Pre-ACT, but many don’t understand the significance of these exams. 

These tests are meant to prepare students for taking the SAT and ACT exams in the future. Students and parents often believe the “P” in the PSAT stands for practice, and while in the reality that is what that letter stands for, it is so much more than just an attempt at a college entrance exam for your daughter. 

Another name for the PSAT is the NMSQT, which stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Juniors who take the PSAT/NMSQT are on the official route of entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Fifty-thousand high-scoring students will ultimately qualify for program recognition, which carries incredible prestige. Of these students, two-thirds will receive Letters of Commendation but will not be awarded scholarship money. One-third of these students will qualify as semifinalists and will move on to compete for a National Merit Scholarship, which will ultimately be awarded to 7,500 students.

The juniors take the PSAT/NMSQT, not only to be eligible for recognition and scholarship money, but also to get on the radar of colleges nationwide. The College Board, which produces the PSAT (and SAT exams), shares information provided by students, such as their current GPA and potential college major, with colleges and universities.

These schools often send informational material, and sometimes college application fee waivers, to students whom they identify to be potential applicants. It’s encouraging for students to receive unsolicited information from colleges that seem eager to attract them.

Freshmen will be taking the Pre-ACT  and sophomores will be taking the “PSAT 10” exam, but both are strictly a trial run for them as their scores are not eligible for National Merit consideration. The PSAT and Pre-ACT tests are good way to see how much preparation your daughter might need to put into the official testing in winter of her junior year. 

Since the PSAT is simply a shorter version of the SAT exam, with the same level of difficulty, covering the exact same academic material, students find it extremely helpful to do SAT preparation prior to their PSAT as it then benefits them for both exams.

So how do you prepare for the PRE-ACT and the PSAT? Well, first familiarize yourself with the test! Take at least one practice test on the and websites to see what the test encompasses, how the sections are divided up, and how the timing goes for each section. As you go through the tests, make sure to not take too much time on any one question. Be sure to pace yourself and mark harder questions to go back to after you have answered the easier questions. Remember, you can write in your booklet and fill every bubble because you do not have points taken off for wrong answers.

The night before the exam you will want to eat a good dinner, get lots of sleep, and drink lots of water. The morning of the test, have a good breakfast with lots of protein, make sure you bring the right type of calculator (these can be found on the testing websites), at least two number 2 pencils with good erasers, a watch that doesn’t make noises if you want to keep your own pace, and a water bottle– no food or other types of drinks are allowed in the testing rooms. 

Remember, these scores are not used in the college admissions process nor can colleges see the Pre-ACT or PSAT scores. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation is automatically sent junior PSAT scores in order to use their selection index to determine the top 1% of test scores for National Merit Scholarship finalist consideration.

Get lots of rest the night before the test and good luck ladies!

Ms. Megan Hoover is the Director of College Counseling and Dean of Students at Alverno Heights Academy. This is her second year at Alverno but she has worked in post-secondary planning as a school counselor and college counselor for 10 years. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Elon University and her Master’s degree in School Counseling from Catholic University. Ms. Hoover is the co-moderator for the Senior State and teaches College Prep 1 and College Prep 2. Ms. Hoover also coordinates all visits from college and university representatives as well as organizing college trips, including the most recent one to San Diego. 

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