Should Sophomores Take the PSAT This October?

Current sophomores will have some decisions to make regarding test prep. They will want to decide on the SAT and ACT tests, as will other classes, but they will also have the “opportunity” to choose to take either the old SAT, the new SAT, or both. The College Board’s recent announcement about delaying the score release day for the spring sittings of the redesigned SAT throws one more wrench into the mix.

But the decision-making doesn’t end there. Sophomores will take the old PSAT this October, and then the new PSAT in October of 2015, which will count for National Merit. Is it worth taking the old PSAT this year or would it be better to wait until the new PSAT? Moreover, is there harm in taking the old test, when the new one is likely to look much different? For several reasons, it is still worth it to take the old PSAT, even if it looks different from the new PSAT.

The old PSAT still counts for AP classes.

Many schools look at PSAT scores in students’ sophomore year to determine eligibility for AP classes. You can see the correlation and expectancy of getting a 3 or higher on an AP based on PSAT scores at the College Board website. Depending on your school’s approach and cutoff scores, your sophomore PSAT could matter a great deal in terms of what AP classes you can take your junior year. Not every school uses PSATs when determining AP classes, so make sure to check with your school to see if this PSAT matters for next year’s classes.

The old PSAT is still good practice for the new PSAT.

Both tests will still feature critical reading passages, foundational and intermediate math concepts, and grammatical/rhetorical questions. Even if the new PSAT has a different feel from the old PSAT, students taking the test this year can continue to hone their ability to problem-solve, work under the pressure of time, and learn how to deal with test anxiety. Taking the old PSAT can even help diminish some of the anxiety that students will feel when taking the new PSAT, as students will be able to remember their past testing experience, how they made it through relatively unscathed, and assure themselves that they will make it through this experience as well. The test can also help to identify significant obstacles to testing: distractions, timing, and carelessness being a few possible issues that this fall’s PSAT could reveal.

The old PSAT will help decide on which SAT/ACT to take.

Sophomores will have the opportunity to take the old SAT during the fall of their junior year, as well as the new SAT the spring of their junior year and beyond (see “Testing Timelines”). With so many options, not to mention the ACT, they will want to know which test suits them best. Taking the old PSAT their sophomore fall and a practice new PSAT as it comes available in December 2014 will put sophomores in the best position to decide if they should focus on one test or shoot for both tests in the fall/spring of their junior year.

It is easy to disparage the old once the new comes around (who is still interested in the I-phone 5?); still, the old PSAT remains a valuable test for sophomores. Whether the returns come with AP classes, National Merit potential, or SAT tests, it is worth the time and effort. What’s more, you’ll be able to say with pride that you were part of the last class to take the old PSAT. Turn that into a catchy bumper sticker, and you could be on to something.

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