Everything you need to know about the PSAT!

There’s nothing like taking a test that will evaluate your preparedness in order to take another test that will evaluate your preparedness for college.  Enter: the PSAT, formerly known as the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test.  

When should you take the PSAT?  The PSAT is only offered on Wednesday, October 13, 2010 and Saturday, October 16, 2010 at high schools.  Each high school selects one of the two days to administer the test.  Students can sign up for the $13 test through their high school counselor, but do it ASAP as the test date is drawing near!!

What will you be tested on?  This test, similar to the SAT, will test a student’s critical reading, math problem solving, and writing skills.  The focus is to evaluate your ability to apply these skills you’ve learned and will not require you to recall specific facts from your classes.

Why take it?  Good question!  You’ll be able to receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, revealing areas to focus on.  You’ll be able to see how your test score stacks up against other students’ scores.  Last but not least, it will help you prepare for the SAT by becoming familiar with the type of questions and directions you will see on the SAT.

 What’s on the test?  The 2 hour and 10 minute test contains 5 sections:

  • Two 25-minute critical reading sections (48 questions)
    • 13 sentence completion questions
    • 35 critical reading questions
  • Two 25-minute math sections (38 questions)
  • One 30-minute writing skills section (39 questions)
    • 14 identifying sentence error questions
    • 20 improving sentence questions
    • 5 improving paragraph questions

How should you prepare?  STUDY and PRACTICE!  There are many books/websites/etc. that provide resources for helping you to study for the exam.  We recommend you take a free practice exam before spending money on a prep course.  For free practice PSAT exams, see CollegeBoard’s website: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/prep.html

How is the test scored?  Your score report will include 3 scores: score breakdown, national percentiles, and the selection index.  Each PSAT section is on a scale of 20 to 80.

  •  ’09 average score for 11th graders: 47 in CR, 48 in Math, and 46 in Writing.
  • ’09 average score 10th graders: 42 in CR, 43 in Math, and 41 in Writing.

The national percentile score will allow you to compare your scores with other students in your grade level who have taken the PSAT. For example, 10th grader with a percentile of 55 has earned a score better than 55 percent of all 10th graders.  Another way to understand percentiles is to imagine 100 students lined up from the lowest (or 1st) percentile at the end of the line to the highest (or 99th) percentile at the front of the line. If you are at the 55th percentile, you would be the 56th person in line, ahead of 55 people in the line and behind 44.   In other words, a high percentage is better! 

The Selection Index, which is used to determine eligibility in National Merit Scholarship Corporation programs (NMSC), uses the sum of the three scores (CR + M + W).  The Selection Index ranges from 60 to 240; the 11th grade average is about 141.  (Note: Only students in eleventh grade are eligible to enter NMSC scholarship programs.)

Please send us your results in order to go over how you did and how you should prepare for the real exam!


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