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3 Surprising Benefits of Preparing for the PSAT (And 1 Unsurprising Benefit)


At AJ Tutoring, it’s our mission to support students as they encounter and engage with academic challenges like complex coursework and formidable standardized tests for the first few times. As part of our commitment to simplify and demystify the process, we often speak with parents and students about the array of exams out there to help create the right plan for each individual student. We are experts in everything from the ISEE, SSAT, and HSPT to the SAT and ACT, all the way to the GRE and MCAT.

A common topic of discussion is the PSAT, which all juniors, many sophomores, and even some freshmen take at school to gauge their progress towards SAT and ultimately college readiness. Parents and students often wonder what the value of PSAT prep is if colleges don’t end up seeing the PSAT score. It’s true that the SAT and ACT are much more primary for admissions purposes as colleges can’t see students’ PSAT scores, but there are still a number of benefits to preparing for the PSAT: it’s more than just a practice test!

If you’d like to learn more and sign up for PSAT tutoring, please give us a call today! Read on for 3 surprising (and 1 unsurprising) benefits to preparing for the PSAT.

#1: Staying Engaged Over the Summer

Because juniors take the PSAT in October, most students at AJ Tutoring do a significant chunk of their preps during the summer holidays. During the school year, our minds are kept sharp with daily math problem sets, constant essay writing sessions, and stimulating academic conversations. Over the summer, many of these activities can fall by the wayside, and our mental skills can slow down somewhat.

Click here to read another blog post I published about the forgetting curve!

Because the PSAT is a challenging test that seeks to measure representative reasoning skills from across the academic spectrum, training for it can help keep those skills sharp all summer long! Our PSAT students are reading tough passages for the reading comprehension section, poring over essays with a critical eye for the English section, and practicing algebra and geometry concepts for the math section.

To double down on this particular benefit, many of our students also take academic tutoring over the summer to get a leg up on fall semester.

#2: Get Better at Test-Taking

For many juniors, it’s a year of exam after exam. After the PSAT, there’s the SAT and potentially the ACT, as well as SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams.  These are in addition to the barrage of chemistry tests, reading comprehension quizzes, and physics finals that students encounter at school. An average high school junior in the Bay Area takes dozens and dozens of tests, so test-taking is itself one of the key skills to hone for success.

In the interest of emphasizing metacognition (you can read an excellent blog post on the topic here), a sustained focus on the PSAT can bolster test-taking skills like reading the question carefully, annotating passages, and optimizing multiple choice selections. Sitting for a few of our 3-hour proctored practice exams will also help develop the focus and endurance required for testing success.

Lastly, getting ahead of the year of tests by signing up for 1-on-1 tutoring will allow one of our professional tutors to assess your student’s unique strengths and weaknesses, which can then be acknowledged and better understood when preparing for future exams.

#3: A College Application Boost or Even a Scholarship

Another name for the PSAT is the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. A small percent of top performers on the PSAT will qualify as Commended Students, Semifinalists, or Finalists after excelling on the exam and completing an application process. About half of the Finalists will receive a Merit Scholarship with thousands of dollars in potential benefit towards college costs.

Even if a qualifier doesn’t ultimately win the scholarship, he or she can include their qualifying status on college applications. The PSAT does have the potential to directly impact college admissions after all!

And a bonus, #4: You Are Also Preparing for the SAT and ACT!

Although the PSAT isn’t just a practice SAT, it does fulfill that function wonderfully! The PSAT is very similar to the SAT, so in preparing for the PSAT, our students are also learning the crucial skills and content needed for success on the SAT and ACT (which is quite similar to the SAT and thus the PSAT).

A popular path (which you can read up on here) is to complete 9-10 sessions of prep in the summer and early fall ahead of the PSAT. Those students then go on to do 3-5 sessions of prep ahead of a March SAT, followed by a few more sessions ahead of the April ACT. Students who choose this path get the benefit of completing most of their tutoring over the summer before the busyness of classes and extracurriculars kicks into full gear in August.

Please reach out to us to discuss your student’s needs and learn how we can help!

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