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Why Take the PSAT Test?

Dec 4, 2007
Also known as the PSAT/NMSQT test, the PSAT test takes place across the US during October each year. This is important to note for the following reasons:
Announcements are often seen about students who are named as National Merit Finalists. These students usually qualify for college scholarships, sometimes very generous scholarships that will secure their education funding. The process to becoming a National Merit Finalist began during the October before this when they sat the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test).

Scholarships are not the only reason for taking the PSAT/NMSQT however. There are other positive reasons for taking it. For example, it's an excellent way of identifying what strengths and weaknesses you may have. Identifying these can be invaluable as they will reveal which areas you need to apply more study time to when it comes to revising for the SAT.

The PSAT is also a great practice run for the SAT. Even though you may hope to do well enough in the PSAT/NMSQT to qualify for a scholarship, even the experience of sitting it will put you in a good place when it comes to the SAT itself. You will already have some idea of the standard they require, and the kind of questions you can expect to see on the SAT papers.

If you indicate that you want to receive information by ticking the "yes" option for the "Student Search Service" you will get great information from the colleges. This will help you decide which college offers you the best opportunity for the kind of program you hope to follow.

There's a procedure for being eligible to sit the PSAT which is usually as follows: Find out whether your school has a sign-up form or if you have to do this at community level. Even though the test is taken in a school environment, there may be a sign-up elsewhere in your locality. You will probably not be able to register online, so don't leave it until the last minute!

Get in contact with the relevant personnel at your school. Ask the guidance counselor who is responsible for organizing the PSAT in your school. You should obtain a copy of the Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT (free) as this will give you valuable information about preparing for the test.

You will need to pay a fee to sit the PSAT (in 2006 this was $12) -- but there may also be an additional fee charged by your school for administration costs. If you have financial difficulty and are unable to pay the fee your school counselor will be able to help you obtain a fee waiver which is possible in some cases. Home schooled students are also eligible for PSAT entrance. Speak to the local high school to make arrangements to take the test on their premises. You will need to do this during the summer so as to ensure you get a place in that October's test.

If you are in 10th grade and are interested in taking the PSAT as a dry-run ready for the real thing the following year, this is usually allowed. You should note however that the score you receive on this isn't able to be used the following year as you must be in 11th grade in order for the score to count, but for the purposes of identifying areas you need to work on in order to get the best score possible in the 11th grade test, it's well worth the practice run during 10th grade.

Although the PSAT isn't compulsory there are many reasons to take it. The most important of these is that when it comes to sitting the SAT you already have had a chance to test your ability under the strict test guidelines, and will be less nervous than students who are facing this kind of examination environment for the first time.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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