The Last Paper PSAT: What You Need to Know
It’s the last paper-based PSAT. What does this mean for juniors, sophomores, and freshmen taking this year’s PSAT?
This year’s PSAT is right around the corner, with most students taking the annual “Practice SAT” on Wednesday, October 12th. In previous years, the PSAT has been an opportunity for juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen to see how they do on the SAT-style test. This year will be the final paper-based PSAT, as the 2023 PSAT will be entirely digital.
These looming changes will affect students differently depending on their grade level, so let’s run down the game plan for each grade.
Juniors: Business as Usual
The changes do not affect current high school juniors (the class of 2024), because this group will be done with college admissions testing by the time the digital PSAT and SAT arrive. If you’re a junior, here’s what you need to focus on for this year’s PSAT.
For most students, the PSAT provides an indication of how you’ll do on the SAT. If you find the PSAT not to your liking, it may make sense to explore taking the ACT. Some schools use PSAT scores for placement in honors, AP, or IB courses. Students at those schools should look at the cutoffs and plan to study accordingly.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the PSAT is how juniors qualify for National Merit Scholarships. Students with the top 1% of PSAT scores in their state are invited to apply for National Merit Scholarships, although actually receiving either recognition or money involves more steps.
It’s worth noting that National Merit cutoff scores for many states have lowered due to Covid disruptions. It’s unknown whether or not scores will bounce back this year, as most schools are on a normal schedule now, or if learning loss experienced during Covid will continue to nudge cutoff scores lower.
Regardless, we strongly recommend that juniors make the most of their PSAT testing experience because it is an excellent way to kick off the college admissions testing process.
Sophomores: Change is Coming
Current sophomores will be the most affected by the change to digital testing. When they are juniors, the PSAT will be digital, which means those students aiming for National Merit will need to familiarize themselves with the new test form.
This may lead to the question: should sophomores care about this year’s PSAT? Yes. The SAT will not switch over to the digital format in the US until March 2024. This means that current sophomores can still take the paper-based SAT during the fall of their junior year. Sophomores should consider this year’s PSAT a barometer whether or not they want to stick with the paper-based test, or focus their energy on the digital SAT or the ACT.
Additionally, some schools use sophomore PSAT scores for class placement. For those enrolled in schools that use this policy, it’s important to try their best on this year’s PSAT.
Freshmen: All Eyes on the Digital Test
Freshmen are in an interesting situation this year. If they take this year’s PSAT, it will likely be their only exposure to paper-based testing for either the PSAT or SAT. This makes this year’s PSAT only important for students at schools where the PSAT is used for class placement. Some schools are not requiring or not purchasing the PSAT for their freshmen class. In that case, it’s best that students focus on their classes and wait until the digital PSAT launches next year.
In short, this year’s final paper PSAT is as important as ever for sophomores and juniors. And, as always, we’re here to help students navigate the process with our ever-popular PSAT Prep Rally, which includes FREE practice and strategy sessions. Juniors sophomores, grab your spot! Freshmen will still find the standardized testing practice valuable, even with the changes on the horizon, and are best advised to keep their classwork and grades front and center this year. For students (of any grade level) who need support staying on top of all their challenging schoolwork, our Academic Tutors and Executive Function Coaches can help. Talk to an Advisor today to learn how.