I Took The PSAT—Now What?

Last week, millions of high school sophomores and juniors took the PSAT. And for good reason: Since the PSAT scores won't factor into college admissions decisions, it's a low-stress way to get a sense of what college admission testing feels like. Students can work out any potential bugs in the test-taking process and get a sense for their strengths and weaknesses so they're ready to go when taking the exams that will count on their applications.

Our friends at Compass Prep have some insights into how to use the PSAT experience to your advantage, which we'll outline below.

For Juniors

PSAT stands for "Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test," you can think of it as Pre-SAT. It's important for students to think back on their PSAT experience and figure out what they'll need to do to better prepare for their "real" college entrance exams. Where did they feel comfortable? Where did they struggle? What could they have done in the study process to help them be more prepared?

Of course, the PSAT also serves as the National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test (that's where the NMSQT part of the PSAT/NMSQT name comes from). By taking the PSAT, you're automatically entered into the National Merit Scholar competition, and if your score is in the top ~3%, you'll get recognized. Even though the score itself doesn't matter, this recognition looks really good on a college application.

Finally, the PSAT experience can help juniors decide whether to take the ACT or SAT when it comes time for the official college entrance test. Our colleagues at Compass have done some great analysis of how to use a PSAT score to determine which test to prep for.

For Sophomores

For sophomores, taking the PSAT is a different beast. It's more about getting a sense for which academic areas need some work and getting some test-taking practice under their belt early in their high school careers. Students can also use their scores from sophomore year to compare to their junior year scores to see where they were able to improve and where they're still struggling. That will help them identify which study strategies were successful for them and which they should continue to adjust.