Why the PSAT Is Still Important

September 20, 2021

by Leanne Soulard

Next month, juniors, and many sophomores, will engage in one of the most basic high school rites of passage: taking the PSAT. I remember taking it…sort of. I have a clear memory of signing up for it because literally everyone else was but I had absolutely no idea why I was doing it or how it would help me. I knew that colleges wouldn’t see it and so I wondered why I’d get up early on a Saturday morning to take it but, like I said, everyone else was doing it so…

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In just a few weeks, roughly 4 million students will take the PSAT and many of them will have signed up for it because, well, literally everyone else was. In fact, a student recently asked me if he “should bother” because so many colleges are going test-optional or eliminating standardized testing requirements entirely and “the only reason” anyone takes the PSAT is because it helps you prepare for the SAT – you see where this is going.

Although it is true that many schools have implemented test-optional admissions policies in the wake of the pandemic, there is no way of knowing if these changes will become permanent. In fact, some schools have indicated that things will return to normal for the Class of 2023. This means that students will not only benefit from the wealth of information contained in the PSAT score report, but also from the experience of taking a standardized test.The score report shows students where they are strong already and identifies their areas of weakness by providing them with the actual test questions and information about why they answered correctly or incorrectly. This kind of detailed information is instrumental in putting together a standardized testing plan that makes sense for each individual student. In other words, why spend time reviewing strategies for using words in context, if you are already strong in that area, when you could be using that time to sharpen your problem solving and data analysis skills? As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know” but the PSAT is a good place to start when you’re trying to figure these things out.

Need more buy-in to the test prep argument? In a recent information session for college counselors hosted by a well-known competitive college, it was revealed that 60% of the students who were admitted submitted test scores “above the middle 50% range.” That statistic was followed by the comment that the school “believes in the value of standardized tests.” What does that mean? It means that even in a test-optional admissions environment, at least at this school, students who were able to present strong SAT or ACT scores had an advantage over students who could not. Kudos to this school for admitting it because most would never dare.

We have no way of knowing what the future of standardized testing in college admissions looks like but, in the meantime, we want students to have every advantage they can have in this process. This is why we encourage the students we work with to take the PSAT. If only somebody had told me all of this on that Saturday morning so many, many years ago…

Want to know more about this rite of passage? Click here to find out! 

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