Psst, Inside Information

Myths, Facts, and Advice

MYTH: The PSAT is a practice test for the SAT.

FACT: The PSAT is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. This test has been designed to identify scholars from each state who will have the opportunity to continue the selection process for the scholarship award.

ADVICE: Preparing for the PSAT, whether or not a student will qualify for the National Merit Award, will prevent "test shock"! Going into the test having an idea as to the range of scores achievable helps alleviate stress and anxiety. Preparing for the PSAT is an early start for the SAT, lessening the amount of work necessary at a later time.

MYTH: It is almost impossible to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

FACT: Many more students could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program or receive a letter of commendation if they were properly prepared for the PSAT. The PSAT consists of three sections: Verbal, Math, and Writing (grammar). The highest score on each section of the PSAT is 80 (as compared to 800 on the SAT). Each state has its own qualifying score.

ADVICE: Be sure to take a pre-test to assess your current situation. Take ONLY a REAL PSAT that has been administered in the past.

MYTH: All practice PSAT & SAT material is the same.

FACT: Many commercial preparation companies administer a "look alike" test and use "look alike" material in their classes, written by their own staff. It may look like a real PSAT and SAT, BUT it's usually NOT a REAL SAT or PSAT! Working on authentic ETS material is essential.

ADVICE: Whether you choose to study on your own or take a preparation course be sure to work ONLY with College Board material. Purchase on-line or at any local bookstore. Seek out a preparation program that exclusively uses the College Board material.

MYTH: If you do well on the PSAT you are guaranteed to do well on the SAT.

FACT: The nature of the scoring on the PSAT is quite different from the SAT. Scores can be dramatically inflated or deflated with a just a few points in either direction.

ADVICE: Practice on REAL SAT's after you have received your PSAT score. Chart your scores to gauge the average of what your score might be.