Frequently Asked Questions – II

What Are the PSAT and NMSQT?

The PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a shortened version of the SAT taken during the junior year and is generally recognized as a “practice” SAT. It is also referred to as the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) because the scores of the PSAT are used to determine if a student can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, a prestigious honor.

Unlike the SAT, the verbal section of the PSAT includes questions evaluating writing ability. These multiple choice questions will evaluate your ability to identify good writing by asking you to detect faults in usage and grammar.

The PSAT is scored differently that the SAT. Scores for each section on the PSAT range from 20 to 80. You may take the test any time prior to your junior year, but only the junior year PSAT score will count towards the NMSQT. In my years of coaching experience, I have found that the first score on the PSAT is oftentimes the best score, so I recommend only taking it your junior year.

During October of each year, the PSAT is administered in your local high school. In early December your scores will be mailed to you. After all the scores have been analyzed, your score will be compared to others and you may be designated a Recommended National Merit Semifinalist. Only the top scores – 1.5 percent ? reach a recommended National Merit Semifinalist sttatus and only .7 percent actually win a scholarship.

In March, May, or June all Recommended National Merit Semifinalists must take the SAT I if they wish to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship. In early September of the senior year, PSAT scores and transcripts will be evaluated, and National Merit Scholarships will be awarded. Most scholarships come from corporations. MNSQT scholars are required to attend colleges that will award equal or higher scholarships anyway, so go to where God is telling you to go regardless of where corporations want you to go.

For more information, see the PSAT/NMSQT Student Bulletin. Call (847) 866-5100.

Should I Take the PSAT?

Not necessarily. There is no correlation between frequency of aptitude test taking and increased score; indeed, the opposite may happen. In fact, many students are discouraged by low PSAT scores and find that their SAT preparation is hindered. Therefore, I recommend that all students take a mock SAT to get an idea how well they will do on the PSAT. If in fact the student scores high (above 1250) then take the PSAT.

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