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PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, and ACT

The best preparation for the SAT® or ACT® is a well-educated student who has received quality education covering all the core classes. The worst preparation for high-stakes tests is over-testing, which can beat the love of learning right out of a child. While public education may overuse day to day tests, and multiple standardized testing weeks, homeschoolers are free from that.

One Yearly Test Makes Sense

Taking one standardized test each year helps the teaching parent. These tests give an accurate snapshot of ability, helping the parent create an overall plan to meet the needs of their child. Also, registration practice is important for the parent!

Taking one standardized test each year helps the student as well. The amount of experience is all the student needs to be comfortable with fill-in-the-blank bubble tests in a group setting. I suggest a grade level test, not necessarily the PSAT®. They should be able to score well on the test, with no implication or pressure of "This is important for college - you'd better do well!"

PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT® Options

The PSAT® now comes in quite a few formats: PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT®.

The College Board's goal is to sell products (obviously) but also give children plenty of opportunities to take the tests. In this test-heavy educational environment, over-testing is the norm, and they are trying to provide what schools want; more tests. But all the PSAT® tests are really practice for the SAT®, with the added possibility of a scholarship based on the PSAT/NMSQT®.

The SAT® is also in competition with the ACT® test. The ACT® testing company offers multiple test opportunities for every grade and the College Board wanted to get in on that action as well.

The PSAT™ 8/9 is shorter than the original PSAT® test. The PSAT™ 10 is longer and more like the original. The PSAT/NMSQT® is the only qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship. Read more in my article National Merit Scholarship Information for Homeschoolers

Test Preparation

It's helpful to take a step back and figure out what your goals are for your child. You want to prepare your child for the PSAT® in the best possible way, to increase their chances of earning good scholarships. All the PSAT® tests are preparation for the SAT®, so you must figure out which test/s meet your goals.

Try to decide how many SAT® practice tests taken in a real test setting will help your child and how many tests will start to produce test anxiety and frustration. You do want to give your child the "soft skills" of test prep - filling in bubbles in a timed situation among strangers - but how many PSAT® tests will provide these soft skills? And how many tests will begin to backfire on your child, making them more anxious instead of less anxious? This varies by child.
In my opinion, the best PSAT® test preparation is spending time on basic literacy skills prior to high school: reading, writing, and math. Once your child is in 10th grade, the best test preparation is practicing with real PSAT® and SAT® test papers.

The most homeschool-friendly way to do this is to give one short, timed section of the test about 3 days a week. That's 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Each short test section will consist of reading, writing, or math. It can replace your language arts workbooks or writing on the days you assign test prep. This can reduce the workload at home, because you aren't adding more test prep, but are replacing some work with test prep.

In 10th grade, I suggest they take the regular PSAT/NMSQT® just for fun, as their one and only test that year. In 11th grade, your child can take the PSAT/NMSQT®, which may qualify them for the National Merit Scholarship. The PSAT® score will also give the best estimate of their SAT® score.

In 11th grade, after they are done with the PSAT/NMSQT®, I suggest you give a timed practice test of the ACT® at home. Then you can compare the estimated SAT® score from the PSAT/NMSQT® against the estimated ACT® score from the timed practice test at home. This will help you decide which test is best for your child and focus all your energy on the test that makes your child look smarter.

Don't over test your child. Focus on literacy and real skills in reading, writing, and math. Then prepare your child by using real test questions from the real test. Read more on test preparation in my article, Test Preparation Without Getting Smarter.
SAT®, AP®, and CLEP® are trademarks owned by the College Board, which is not affiliated with and does not endorse this blog post or The HomeScholar, LLC.
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Friday, 09 December 2022

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