The beginning of December can be a very busy time for anyone connected with test prep or college planning. Why? That’s when students start to get their PSAT scores back and, consequently, when parents get to see their child’s PSAT scores. For many families, this marks the official beginning of a year or more of test-related angst and pressure.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’re a parent who hasn’t yet learned what these scores mean and what your next steps should be, consider these tips to get you through the initial discovery of your child’s PSAT score:
- Other than for National Merit and related scholarship consideration, your child’s PSAT score means nothing! In fact, a 10th grader’s PSAT score is not even used for National Merit Scholarship competition. While the PSAT does offer a useful baseline to predict future SAT performance, it is, for all intents and purposes, just another standardized test coupled with an opportunity for the College Board to give your child’s contact information to thousands of colleges.
- The PSAT is not exactly the same as the SAT. Yes, the test format and test questions are essentially the same, but there are some important PSAT tweaks that you should know about. For example, the PSAT includes approximately 10% fewer questions than the SAT and takes approximately 8% less time to complete.
- Breaking from past tradition, College Board now uses a different scoring scale on the PSAT. Instead of the standard 1600-point scale that is used on the SAT, the PSAT uses a 1520-point scale. You might therefore expect that if a student did proportionately as well on an SAT as a PSAT, they would score about 80 points higher. In reality, the student would score about 30-40 points higher. This disparity can be attributed to College Board’s confusing scoring charts.
- Regardless of scoring scale, the important takeaway here is that SAT scores are almost always a little higher than PSATs.
- With all of this said, was (or is) taking the PSAT even worth the time? Of course! The PSAT offers great practice for a very practicable test by providing an opportunity to experience a real life test taking environment. The effort and subsequent report helps identify strengths and weaknesses
- Quite often, the PSAT will be an eye opener and will convince your child that it is time to get serious about not just standardized tests, but grades as well.
- Also remember that most students take the PSAT cold without any preparation. By the time they take the actual SAT, they will–if they prepare–be better prepared, better disciplined, and much more test savvy.
- Having gone through this three times with my own children, I offer the following final piece of advice: be patient with your child. Believe it or not, they are as nervous and worried as you are about their future. Some will eagerly listen to you. Others will take some time and might not appear to be listening. Trust me. They are paying attention.
(NOTE: We first published this post in 2018 but like to share it every year the day PSAT scores start coming back!)