In the world of acronyms, the PSAT/NMSQT is the biggest mouthful. But what does it all mean?
The PSAT evolved as a practice version of the SAT, but now is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Only juniors can take the NMSQT, so even if you took the PSAT for practice as a sophomore, your scores were not forwarded to National Merit Scholarship Corp. You also cannot retake the PSAT/NMSQT, as it is only offered once a year. There are other versions of the PSAT: the PSAT 8/9 and the PSAT 10. They all test the same skills, but "in ways that are appropriate for your grade level," which means the questions are likely easier, and the high scores are not as high. These tests are also offered at different times through the school year. Learn more about these other versions of the PSAT in the table below or by clicking the links.
Every year, the corporation identifies about 16,000 National Merit semi-finalists on the basis of these test scores. To become one of 15,000 finalists, semi-finalists must submit grades, SAT scores and a school official's recommendation. About 8,200 finalists win scholarships. Another 1,500 students who are not finalists also win special scholarships. [Source]
The PSAT (and the SAT) is very different than the ACT. In fact, this year’s PSAT is different from last year’s PSAT because it was part of the “New SAT” rewrite for 2016. I encourage you to take a practice PSAT this month. You can download one from the College Board website by clicking the link or copying and pasting the link into your browser search bar: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/practice/full-length-practice-test
You can take the practice test at the link above and/or practice with sample SAT test questions online through Khan Academy. The SAT has the same format as PSAT but with more difficult questions, so practicing for the SAT might make you even better prepared. https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/new-sat/new-sat-tips-planning/new-sat-how-to-prep/a/full-length-psat-to-take-on-paper
You only get one shot at the NMSQT and it can mean considerable merit scholarship money at your colleges. So it can only benefit you to put some work into preparing for it. This year, the PSAT/NMSQT will be administered on October 14 or October 28, 2015. It should be available at your school. Check with student services or your guidance counselor to find out about signing up. Taking the test will cost $15. Find out more about the PSAT on the College Board’s website by clicking the link or cut-and-pasting the URL into your search bar: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/taking-the-tests
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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