The PSAT: The Test No One Should Take

Matt Larriva
Jul 22, 2015

Every year we get inundated with calls asking for help prepping for the PSAT. Our first response is always the same: why are you taking the PSAT? After a brief pause the conversations go one of four ways:

I just want to see how I would do on the SAT:
Then why not take a practice SAT? The PSAT is a different format, duration, and difficulty from the SAT itself, so the PSAT is actually not a good indicator of your SAT score. The best predictor of your SAT score is a practice SAT, which you can take for free, at your convenience, and without having a potentially weak score become part of your permanent record.

I want to be a National Merit finalist:
The PSAT is a qualifying test, and a high enough score will get you the chance to become a National Merit Finalist or Semi-Finalist. While this is a noble goal, remember that out of the over 1.4 million students who took this test in 2014, only 16,000 moved on to the Semi-Finalist level, and only 7,600 of those became Finalists. Only you know your/your student’s abilities, but if he/she doesn’t have a history of scoring in the top half-percent on all tests, then the PSAT will probably not be a rewarding experience.

I want to get on college’s radars:
Then let the College Board send out your SAT results. This will accomplish the same thing and will avoid you having to prep for the PSAT, while also allowing your scores to show up to colleges of your choice nearer the time you’ll be applying. 

My school is making me:
Sleep through the test. History usually remembers peaceful protesters fondly.