Preparing for PSAT


To study or not to study, that is what many students struggle to choose between as the stress of PSAT day approached.

Autumn in the U.S. marks a very stressful time for high school students all over the nation. Many see the PSAT test as what it is called, a practice test. But some juniors see its potential, an opportunity for scholarships if their score is high enough. 

The purpose of the PSAT is to give the student an early idea of what her potential score is for the SAT, which is one of the most important tests for a student’s college acceptance.

A secondary purpose of the PSAT is to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Only the top 1% of junior scores, in each state, qualify, but finalists are given opportunities to receive scholarships based on their scores. In addition, students who score in the 2%-5% are named Commended Students.

College Counselor Kelly Tarini described the test as, “[An] opportunity for you to practice without having the pressure of a college actually seeing the results.” She explained, “To loosely see what is your benchmark and to give you an idea that if you receive a certain score, that it is most likely what you are going to get on your SAT.”

At AHC, practicing for the SAT can start as early as freshman year. Sophomore Caroline Killian, a Santa Crux scholar, was given the opportunity to take the PSAT in her freshman year. She explained that she was instructed not to practice for it, as it was meant for the purpose of a benchmark, but she does believe that it did help prepare her for taking it in her sophomore year. As she is now more aware of the types of questions in it, she said, “I think I will be a lot more prepared for it now, since I’ve taken geometry so I will know a lot more of the material on it.” 

This year was Killian’s second year to take the test, and she recommended,“Reading the answers before you try to figure out the problem.”

Unlike scheduled quizzes and tests for in-school classes, studying for the PSAT is a bit different and can be more difficult to find sources of information. For sophomores, prep for the test can include outside sources such as books and online materials, but juniors who want additional preparation can also take after-school classes.

Sophomore Makayla Gladden used the preparation approach of many sophomores, “Crack open the booklet they gave me, and look at notes from maybe even last year.”