A Deep Dive into the PSAT/NMSQT – it’s more important than you think!
Is your PSAT score up to par? On average, students who take the PSAT score higher on the SAT than students who do not take the PSAT. Even more – the PSAT/NMSQT can also qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship!
Your PSAT Score and the National Merit® Scholarship Program
The PSAT is also known as the National Merit® Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). The National Merit Scholarship Program began in 1955 as an academic competition for recognition and scholarships. High school juniors participate in the National Merit Program by taking the PSAT/NMSQT®.
The PSAT/NMSQT is not required for college admission but earning a National Merit Scholarship is considered a prestigious accomplishment, a feat that can only be attained by testing well on the PSAT/NMSQT. Although less than 1% of PSAT-takers are named Merit Scholars, the distinction is an instantly recognizable feature on any college application. College admission advisors heavily seek National Merit Scholars and are willing to pay for the privilege of being able to boast a large number of them each year. National Merit Scholarships range from $2,500 up to $10,000 per year, and some schools will even offer free rides for outstanding Scholars! Often finalists and semi-finalists for the award see increased scholarship offers from other programs.
Is My PSAT Score Good Enough?
The PSAT/NMSQT is offered once per academic year in October and includes three sections: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing Skills. Each section is scored on a scale from 20 to 80 with a composite score ranging from 60 to 240. PSAT score reports also include national percentiles, which allow you to compare your scores with other students in your grade level who have taken the PSAT/NMSQT. If you take the PSAT/NMSQT in the 11th grade, you will receive junior percentiles. If you take the PSAT/NMSQT in the 10th grade or earlier you will receive sophomore percentiles. For example, a student in 11th grade with a percentile of 55 has earned a score better than 55 percent of all 11th graders.
Although not every student will become a National Merit Scholar, the PSAT/NMSQT is important for more than just scholarships. On average, students who take the PSAT score higher on the SAT than students who do not take the PSAT. Most schools offer the PSAT as early as 8th or 9th grade. You should take it as many times as possible, and use your PSAT scores to build on your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses from year to year. View the PSAT as a learning opportunity that will allow you to become familiar with the format, structure, and question types you will see on the SAT as well. This insight will inform your plan of attack as you focus your energy in preparation for the SAT.
You may wonder how your PSAT/NMSQT score translates to the SAT. The SAT sub-scores range from 200 to 800. To calculate what your SAT scores would be, simply add an extra zero to the end of your PSAT scores. For example, a score of 60 on the PSAT Math section translates to a 600 on the SAT Math section.
Set a Target PSAT Score
You can make the job of planning your SAT studies easier if you start early with prepping for the PSAT/NMSQT. First, know what scores you need to achieve to be admitted to your target schools. Research your target schools and find out what counts as a “good” score – meaning, determine the score that most admitted students fall between, and set your target scores to be at upper quartile in that range. Then, use the PSAT/NMSQT as practice for the SAT. Strive to meet your target score on the PSAT. Just think, by the time you take the SAT, you will not only meet your target score, but surpass it!
Learn more about how MathSP can help you succeed on the PSAT!