The Hardest Part of the PSAT

The Hardest Part of the PSAT

You’ve taken it on faith; you’ve taken it to the heart, and now comes the hardest part (so true, Tom Petty, so true). Congratulations, sophomores and juniors. You survived the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT tests. Hopefully you have treated yourself to some delightful PSAT memes and moved on with your lives. Two weeks later, you might be wondering what the point of that experience was and what the next steps are.

For students who took the PSAT at their school, scores will be made available online on December 12th, although the schools will get access to the results on the 5th. You’ll be able to log onto the College Board website, see your scores for the different sections as well as the breakdown for correct/incorrect problems.

If you are a sophomore, or if you took the test as practice for the SAT, you will have a veritable treasure trove of data to analyze and help you prepare for the SATs, whether you take the test in the spring or fall of 2017. You can see where you struggled the most with timing, what types of problems posed a consistent challenge, and where you might have missed some easier points from not writing out your work. It sometimes isn’t the easiest thing to look over feedback, but doing so will put you in the best position to learn from past mistakes and get a higher score on the real test.

If you want to anticipate how you would do on the SAT, based on your PSAT scores, you need look no further than your PSAT scores. The College Board assures us that the PSAT scores are vertically aligned with the SAT, meaning that the score you got on the PSAT is very similar to a score you would have received on the SAT test. The PSAT maxes out at 760 per section (1520 total) because it omits some higher-level content that juniors typically will not see until the spring.

If you are hoping to make the cutoff score for the National Merit competition, you can use last year’s cutoff score as an approximation for this year’s cutoffs, although we won’t be completely sure until the NMSC announces the cutoffs. Although you’ll get your scores on December 12th, you will need to wait until fall of next year for more information as to whether you made the cut for the NMS program.

In September of 2017, 16,000 semifinalist and 34,000 commended students will be notified of their status. Semifinalist students will need to complete additional paperwork and plan to take an SAT at some point, receiving a comparable score as on their PSAT. In February of 2018, 15,000 students will be notified that they made it to the finalist round, and the following month, 8,000 winners will be announced.

Winners will receive a $2,500 one-time scholarship award and the opportunity to apply to various institutions that offer scholarships to National Merit semifinalists, finalists, and scholars.

We clearly have a lot of time before March of 2018, so add some of these dates to your calendar – particularly December 12th – and enjoy the rest of your fall semester! For more information, please visit nationalmerit.org.


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