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PSAT: Time to Get Scores & Use Them

Posted on 12/14/2016, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 9th Graders, Parents of 10th Graders, Parents of 11th Graders (0 comments)

Breaking news: PSAT scores are out. Students can get their scores online now by logging in to their College Board account or creating one. Don't delay checking them out. 

The first and most obvious function of PSAT scores is to predict a student's likely SAT scores. Beyond that, however, the PSAT score report also provides a more detailed analysis of a test-taker's strengths and weaknesses. Finally, a relatively new and exciting feature of the PSAT score report is the capability to gain access to customized test prep resources through the non-profit Khan Academy, which has partnered with the College Board. 

How Good is Good Enough?

The answer depends, of course, on the colleges your teen is aspiring to attend, so consult the  College Board’s search engine, Big Future, to investigate the average scores at those schools. What if your daughter’s predicted SAT scores fall smack in the middle of admitted students’ scores at her dream college? Should she just take the next SAT without further ado?

Not so fast. If she’s aiming for a college with a low acceptance rate, she needs to be aware that many applicants whose test scores match or exceed those of admitted students will be denied simply because the college doesn’t have enough places in the freshman class to admit all qualified applicants. Accordingly, she should aim for test scores well above average to boost her chances of acceptance. Even if her dream college is not extremely competitive, better scores can translate into merit scholarships or an honors program. So my advice to all students is to do serious test prep before taking the SAT. It's just too important a test to take cold.

Won’t Your Teen’s Scores Just Naturally Improve Over Time?

Many students optimistically expect their scores to improve over time simply because they’ve taken the test previously and continued to study math and English in school. Are they right?

Not according to previously published College Board data on the old SAT, which indicated that the average junior to senior year improvement was a mere 40 points for all three sections combined. So if your teen needs more than a marginal improvement, don’t bank on test repetition and a year of aging. Instead, work with him or her to come up with an effective test prep strategy. For an in depth analysis of how much test scores count and how to plan and prepare for them, check out the articles in the Roadmap section of this website, starting with Admission Testing.

PSAT Scores and the National Merit Competition

The junior year PSAT serves as the preliminary qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship competition, so while you're reviewing your son's report, be sure to look for his selection index. The cutoff score to qualify for recognition varies from year to year and from state to state but as a broad guideline, recognized students have typically been those in about the top 3% of their state. For more on this topic, consult PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide.

College Board Resources:

Video: Understanding Your PSAT/NMSQT Score Report

page to get scores: Click here.

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Posted on 12/14/2016, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)




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