The PSAT is a shorter version of the SAT, and most students take it in October of their junior year. Unlike the SAT, the PSAT is offered only once a year, and it's not a college entrance test. Instead, it's primarily used to qualify high achieving students for National Merit recognition. Some schools have freshmen and sophomores take the PSAT for practice, but those scores cannot be used for National Merit qualification.
This year’s PSAT will be a completely different test from past years! It will look like the new digital SAT so that students can get some practice with its different format. If your child plans to take the digital SAT, prepping for the PSAT can really give them a leg up!
Changes include the following:
- The test will be administered in a digital format only (a paper and pencil version will only be made available to students with an approved accommodation).
- The test is adaptive. Each section is broken into two modules. The first module will include easy, medium, and hard questions. The second module's mix of questions will be based on the student's performance in the first module.
- The test will have just two sections: a combined reading & writing section and a single math section.
- The reading and writing passages are shorter, and each is followed by only one question.
- Calculators will be allowed for the whole math section.
The PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), and some students prepare for the PSAT in hopes of earning National Merit recognition as a Semifinalist or Commended Student.
A very high score (top ½ percent in the state) can qualify a student as a National Merit Semifinalist. A Semifinalist may choose to complete an application process to become a Finalist and possibly win scholarship money. Some colleges also give partial or full scholarships to students who achieve either Semifinalist or Finalist recognition. If a student scores just below the Semifinalist cut-off, they will be named a Commended Student. This is a great honor (and looks fantastic on college applications!), but no additional activities/honors are offered at this level. For more information about National Merit recognition, please visit their website.
Our Approach to the PSAT
For nearly twenty years, Nurturing Wisdom has helped students prepare for the PSAT. Our tutors are skilled at customizing instruction for each student, something that is especially important when students are aiming for such high scores. Does your child need more help with math and less with reading? We can do that! Our individualized approach ensures that your child will earn their best possible PSAT score.
We address four core competencies in our SAT tutoring: test taking strategies, academic skills, timing/pacing, and test anxiety. And all in the context of the new SAT’s digital, adaptive format! We’ve tutored hundreds of students for this style of test, so we are well-versed in what students need to be successful.
We want you to feel supported during this process, too! Your tutoring director will walk you through a customized tutoring timeline, update you on progress, alert you to important deadlines, and answer any questions you have along the way.
Nurturing Wisdom has successfully worked with hundreds of students approved for testing accommodations. Our tutors are experts in how to support students with accommodations such as extended time, multiple day testing, a reader, a writer, or other alternate test formats.
All students begin by taking a PSAT pre-test. Based on our score analysis, the tutoring timeline will indicate whether or not National Merit recognition is realistic, goal scores, and the number of tutoring sessions we recommend.
When to Start
We recommend that students take a PSAT pre-test early in the summer before their junior year. That way, they have plenty of time to prepare, especially when scheduling around summer vacations, camps, and other activities. Junior year is hectic, so it helps to get in test prep rhythm before going back to school. That said, we’re able to work with your child whenever they’re ready! Give us a call or click on the green button to the right.