A plea for PSAT takers

About 1.5 million students are going to take the PSAT this month. If I could say one thing to them, it is this: please don’t worry about it.

The PSAT is just a practice test. That’s all. It was created to let students take a nonthreatening trial version of the SAT before they take the real thing. No student in the history of college admissions has ever been rejected by a college because she scored poorly on the PSAT.

Yes, a comparatively small number of students (about 8,000) are awarded National Merit scholarships every year, and the PSAT scores are the first of many rounds of qualifiers. If you’re notified that your PSAT scores qualify you for future consideration, that’s good news (unless you don’t like free cash). The only thing colleges actually use PSAT scores for is marketing—they buy the names of those who sit for it, so they can mail them marketing materials. Wait until later next spring and you’ll see what I’m talking about when you visit your mailbox.

If you score well on the PSAT, it will be good news because you will likely also do well on the SAT when you take it.  But for everyone else, you'll just use the scores to help you make good test prep decisions.  PSAT scores can tell you whether or not you should prepare for the SAT, or if you should consider being an ACT kid.  Just do your best and use the scores constructively.  Don't let the test stress you out. 


  1. Lynn Cowan says

    I agree wholeheartedly. If your kid does great on standardized tests, then it’s worth a bit of effort, even some prep to get a great score and a shot at a scholarship. Most of the students who get excellent scores end up with only a commendation, which is a paper certificate. These are distributed long after colleges have made admissions decisions, and students have decided where to attend. And if standardized tests aren’t a strenghth and you’ve already taken the SAT, then there’s no reason to take the PSAT except for more practice.