A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Everything to know about the PSAT

The PSAT is a two-hour test given once a year in October. Many juniors and some sophomores take the PSAT as preparation for the SAT taken late junior year, which is used for college admissions and allows students to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. But when should you take the PSAT, if at all?

The PSAT is offered for sophomores and juniors. You can take it both years, one of those years, or not at all. Many take it to get a feel for the test and to practice for the most important standardized test you take which is the SAT. However, the PSAT scores can also be important if you do well because the scores are considered for the National Merit Scholarship competition.

National Merit Scholarship Program is a non-profit organization that conducts competitions for the highest achieving students in the program. There is an index score that varies every year that is used as a baseline score for who qualifies to be in the competition. It measures different academic abilities in each section of the test.  Based on scores and other things about the candidate that are not their PSAT scores. Finalist are then narrowed out and receive a little less than a collective thirty million dollars worth of scholarship money split among all of them. These students that receive the money represent less that one percent of the initial applicant pool awarding approximately 8,200 scholarships annually.

Knowing all of that, it is still a big question whether it is really worth taking the PSAT. No matter if you are taking the ACT or the SAT, the PSAT is great practice for the standardized testing to come for every grade. Many people begin to study for the test they are taking months before, but with school and other activities it is hard to get enough in to get to the score you need. Taking the PSAT gives extra practice for the future and puts you in the environment that you will eventually be in. So why not get the extra practice? It also gives a baseline early in your process to see how much studying is necessary and how to improve scores.

Also with the national merit scholarship, even though very few people really get the scholarship and it is only a little bit of money, if you even become a semi-finalist it still gives you the opportunity to get money from schools through other scholarships; many colleges look at that kind of stuff.
Even if you don’t want to take it or don’t think you are going to do well, don’t blow it off. In the end, the PSAT is worth it in many ways. There is the possibility of becoming a NMSF, obtaining scholarships, and more. Plus, it’s good practice for the SAT. So why not?