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6 Reasons to Take the PSAT

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The PSAT, held in October, is one of the best ways to prepare for the SAT. Use the PSAT as practice for the SAT and as an important guidepost on your college admissions journey.

What About the PreACT?

The PreACT®, targeted to high school sophomores, gives students practice with the ACT and an estimated ACT test score that can be used as an indicator of college readiness. The test is administered by many schools and can be given at any time during the school year.

The PreACT simulates the ACT within a shorter test window on all four ACT test subjects. Like the PSAT, your PreACT scores are not shared with any colleges or other third parties, but you may opt to have limited personal information shared with colleges and scholarship providers. However, unlike the PSAT, PreACT scores are not used to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship.

If you didn’t take the PreACT in 10th grade or your high school doesn’t offer it, the ACT offers a free ACT Academy featuring practice tests, interactive practice questions, study games, and videos.

The PSAT is the Preliminary SAT, and while it doesn’t count towards your college admissions applications, it is a good primer for the SAT. Plus, PSAT scores are used to identify National Merit Scholars and award merit scholarships. 

Because high schools rather than individual test centers administer the PSAT, each school decides when to give the test to its students. Check with your school counselor about when your class is scheduled to take the PSAT and how and when to sign up for it. If your school does not offer the PSAT, you can take it at another local high school. Use the College Board's PSAT High School Search tool to find a school in your area that administers the PSAT, then contact that school to inquire about test dates and procedures.

Why Take the PSAT?

1. The PSAT familiarizes you with the test questions and format of the SAT.

The PSAT is not an exact replica of the SAT, but the questions, test formats, and scoring are similar.  The PSAT, like the SAT, includes three multiple-choice tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics. It does not include the SAT’s optional essay test.

2. You’ll get a “dress rehearsal” for test day.

Taking the PSAT in a classroom, with other students, under strict time limits, and with a proctor present is the closest simulation you’ll get to taking the real SAT. Plus, you’ll practice maneuvering through real “test-day” scenarios: getting to the test on time, checking in, sitting in an unfamiliar chair and desk. This “dry run” may help you feel less nervous when you take the SAT.

3. Your scores can guide your test prep.

Your PSAT scores should highlight your strengths and areas of improvement while you still have time before you take the SAT to do some test prep. In addition to many other test prep services available to you (both online and brick-and-mortar), the College Board, alongside Khan Academy, offers free test prep personalized to your PSAT scores.

4. Colleges will not see your PSAT scores.

Your PSAT scores don’t count towards your college admissions applications and are not provided to any colleges. However, by checking "yes" to the Student Search Service question on the PSAT, you authorize the College Board to provide colleges and scholarship organizations with limited personal information which should, in turn, give you access to over $300 million in scholarships.

5. You might qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

When you take the PSAT, you may meet the requirements to enter the National Merit Scholarship Program and compete for national recognition and college scholarships. To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, you must satisfy high academic standards and other requirements.

6. Colleges might try to recruit you.

If you authorize the College Board to release information about you to colleges and scholarship providers, be prepared to be inundated with mail, email, and invitations to apply. While this can be overwhelming, it also provides an opportunity to learn about schools and programs that you might not have considered.

What's Next?

Find out how the SAT and ACT are different, and which test is your best bet.

Some colleges do not require applicants to submit test scores. Learn more about these “test-optional” colleges.  

For more information on the PSAT, and to view practice questions, visit the College Board.

The information contained on the CollegeData website is for general informational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content contained on the CollegeData website without consulting with your parents, high school counselors, admissions representatives or other college counseling professionals. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on the CollegeData website.