The PSAT is a shorter version of the SAT that most students take 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.
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.
Why Nurturing Wisdom?
For over a decade 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'll also be candid with you. When your child takes our pre-test, we’ll be honest about whether or not we think their pre-test score is high enough to justify doing PSAT preparation. If we think their score is too low to reach any level of National Merit recognition, we'll say so at that point. Of course, students are still welcome to prepare for the test if they choose.
We want you to feel supported during this process! Your tutoring director will walk you throuth a customized tutoring timeline, update you on progress, alert you to important deadlines, and answer any questions you have along the way.
Our Approach to the PSAT
To help students perform to their best ability, we address four core competencies in our PSAT tutoring: test taking strategies, academic skills, test anxiety, and pacing. Addressing these four competencies through PSAT tutoring lays a strong groundwork for other standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT.
We extend this approach to our work on each section of the PSAT:
- Writing and Language: For this section, we teach practical punctuation, agreement, and word choice strategies, as well as hands-on strategies for the informational graphics questions.
- Math: On the math section, simple concepts can be buried in abstract language and challenging question formats. To address this, our PSAT tutors focus first on teaching key math skills and then on explicit strategies for deconstructing the tricky question formats.
- Reading: On the reading section, our SAT tutors teach a combination of active reading and question-answering strategies. They then help students apply those strategies to the challenging and varied passage types that appear on the exam.
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!
If you live outside of the Chicagoland area, we can still help! We love working one-on-one with students online to help them achieve their goals. Contact us to learn more!