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Certification Full Name: Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test / NMSQT
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Studying for the PSAT

Are you about to take the PSAT? Or are you a parent of a high school sophomore trying to figure out what this exam is about? Let's take a closer look at what the PSAT, and what exactly high school students (and their parents) should expect.

PSAT stands for Preliminary SAT test, and is also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test as its scores can qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship. The exam is administered by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

PSAT is taken by high school sophomores and juniors. The exam is given as a practice for the SAT, showing students where they are in terms of their SAT preparedness. PSAT scores are usually a good indicator of the potential SAT score a student can get. The exam also demonstrates where a student is academically - compared to other students, as well as to the college entry and scholarship requirements.

Besides being a good SAT preview, the PSAT can be a strong motivation to students whose academic scores aren't that high, as they still have a year to gear up their studies before taking the SAT. The PSAT is structured exactly the same way as the SAT, and so are the results.

What Does the PSAT Measure?

Just like the SAT, PSAT measures students' verbal skills, math and problem solving, as well as writing skills. Although condensed in just a few sections, the PSAT measures a wide range of skills and intellectual abilities high school students have gained both at school as outside of school. For example, students who read a lot tend to do better on the verbal part of the test as they possess better vocabulary. Taking the PSAT also gives students a chance to enter the National Merit Scholarship program. If the score is high enough, the student needs to submit scholarship application forms and supporting documents, progressing to the next stage of the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The main advantage of the PSAT is the fact that its scores help students determine where they rate with regards to their academic skills, and assess their strength and weaknesses. Students get to see how they would perform on the SAT, and get an idea which colleges they would qualify for. Meanwhile, college entry boards monitor PSAT scores to see how students compare, and perhaps spot some potential candidates for their undergraduate admission.

For many students, the PSAT is the first serious standardized exam of such weight. It is absolutely normal for teens to feel nervous and anxious before the exam. To prepare for the PSAT, as well as to take the edge off this exam, interactive practice tests are a great option popular with high school students nationwide. It also makes things easier to remember that the PSAT is more about learning that performing, so keeping calm is crucial.

PSAT Scoring

The PSAT is scored exactly the same way as the SAT - which makes the SAT preparation a lot easier. After taking the exam, a student receives a score report consisting of 3 different scores on a scale of 20 to 80. The average score is reported to be 49. The report also includes a Selection Index showing the eligibility to the National Merit Scholarship Programs. The Selection Index is a combined score of 3 sections, and ranges from 60 to 240. The scholarship competition is open to high school juniors. So, if you are in the 10th grade and have just taken your PSATs, you'll need to re-take it next year to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Programs.

The score report also includes percentages of your score comparing to the score of your classmates. This information gives valuable insight in terms of your future college admission process.

Preparing For the PSAT

There is a number of approaches to the PSAT preparation. While some students prefer PSAT study guides as their primary preparation tools, others rely on their family and friends to help them prepare. While it is definitely worth checking out your public library for the PSAT books and study guides they have available, more and more students turn to computer based practice exams as an important factor in their PSAT exam preparation. Although the PSAT itself is a paper-based exam, the interactive practice helps you memorize things faster without getting bored. Many PSAT practice exams include real PSAT questions, which can significantly contribute to better exam scores.

Last but not least, make sure to have a good night sleep before your PSAT exam day, have a good breakfast on the exam morning, and do not stress during the exam. Remember that PSAT is an important learning curve, and even if your score isn't as high as you hoped for, you still have a year to prepare for your SAT exam. After all, it's the SAT that really counts for your college admission.

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