College-bound teens take the PSAT every year in mid-October. The PSAT is the test that high school juniors take to qualify for National Merit recognition, although more 9th and 10th graders are taking this test each year. In addition, the PSAT gives students practice and feedback for the SAT. After taking the PSAT, students will get a full report which details the questions they missed. This report can be a useful guide to prepare for the SAT.
Many parents ask me every year whether their teen should study for the PSAT. My answer (like for most things related to college admissions): It depends. The first question in all things college admissions is why. So, I ask parents to tell me why they think their teen should study for the PSAT. Based on the reason, I can then suggest whether it’s worth the teen’s time to study for the PSAT.
Reasons to Study for PSAT
- To get a higher score than last year
- To have a chance at a National Merit recognition
- To present stronger scores for a summer program application
Reasons to NOT Study for PSAT
- Did not take the test last year
- Scores from last year were below 750 for each section
- Academic course load is demanding
- ACT is best test for student
In most cases, students do not need to study for the PSAT. It’s an annual test that plays a marginal role in college admissions. If a student’s best test is the SAT, then they would be better off focusing their prep efforts on the SAT, instead. The best time to prep for the SAT is usually 8-10 weeks prior to the scheduled test date. If the PSAT date coincides with the SAT prep then it’s a win-win.