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Tips for Taking the PSAT®

Even though high school testing seems a bit daunting when you are getting ready to take the first one, these tips for taking the  PSAT®  should help calm your nerves.

When you register for the PSAT/NMSQT® (the full, official name of the test), you'll want to do it in June, prior to the test in the fall. You can read my article Take the PSAT for Fun and Profit here to learn more about the test. Registering requires calling the local public or private schools in your area and requesting to be put on their list to take the test. Not all schools offer the test, so they are used to having guests register. A full practice test will generally be provided when you register. Test results will be sent directly to your home.

Here are a few tips for taking the PSAT® leading up to the test. You can find my entire list of test taking tips in my article, 2 Weeks to the PSAT/NMSQT®, including some helpful 'day-of' tips.  

  1. Begin adjusting sleep cycles: Showing up for the test well rested is part of getting a good score. Remember to leave time for the commute.
  2. Review your homeschool & the student guide with your child: During the test, your child will have to fill out information about their school. To cut down on anxiety, talk about the homeschool in terms of your student's grade average and estimated graduation date, as well as about classes they have taken and grades they've earned. You can help prepare your child for this by showing them their transcript.
  3. Take one practice test: I always recommend practicing for high school tests. This is especially true when it's the first of it's kind.
  4. Talk to your child about choosing an answer: If they realize they don't know an answer or realize that they are going to run out of time, this is one test that they won't be penalized for guessing on. Be sure to instruct them to fill in all the bubbles, even if that means that they are guessing because they are running out of time. There are no penalties for guessing.
  5. Get comfortable with a calculator: Practice using a calculator that you will use for the test. Phones are not allowed as a calculator so be sure to practice using one that your student will take with them the day of the test.
And, finally, I'm often asked, "Can my student can take the PSAT® if they've already taken the SAT®?". The answer is yes. You can always take the PSAT/NMSQT® after having taken the SAT® as a Sophomore. On the National Merit® Scholarship Program website, you can read about all the details. 

When I read this page, it seemed as though they really understood gifted kids.  You can give them the test early or graduate them early and still compete.  Check out the site and read for yourself, because it may put you at ease a bit.

My son Alex was in the same position.  Because Alex was doing so well on SAT® practice exams when we practiced with his older brother, we had him take the SAT® when he was 15 years old.  He ended up scoring an 800, 790 and 790 on the three exam sections, and we were STUNNED.  That was my first clue that he might need to graduate high school early!  The following year he took the PSAT/NMSQT®.  Because he was already taking pre-calculus at that time, we made sure he reviewed the SAT® Math section.  The day of the PSAT/NMSQT®, he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, though.  He had a bad day (teens do that sometimes, you know?)  He didn't score exceptionally well on the PSAT/NMSQT®, and ended up being "only" a commended student.  Since the PSAT/NMSQT® is only counts ONE TIME as the National Merit® Qualifying Test, he had not opportunity to do a re-take.

If you qualify for the National Merit®, there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through before you get the award.  The prize itself is relatively small, at "just" $2500 per year.  Sure it may seem like a lot, but it's not much compared to the cost of college. The National Merit® is still worth pursuing, however.  Although the prize is small, the colleges LOVE to have National Merit® Scholars.  Many colleges will award huge scholarships to National Merit® Scholars.  There are also some businesses that will provide scholarship money to National Merit Scholars!  So even though the prize itself is small, the consequences can be huge.

Look at the college brochures for the schools you are looking at.  If the glossy fliers mention something like "We have 10 National Merit® Scholars and 11 Commended Students" then the chances are very good that they will provide large scholarship awards for the winners.   Even though Alex was "just commended" he was still given great scholarships from every college he applied to.

In my opinion, the PSAT/NMSQT® and National Merit® Scholarship is worth the effort to pursue.  But if you don't win the National Merit®, being Commended is also a great commendation!

PSAT/NMSQT® is a registered trademark of the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. 

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Sunday, 14 April 2024

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