Why Take the PSAT? - Understanding the Importance

PSAT student studying
April 23, 2024
3 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 12/4/23

Have you heard of the PSAT? This article will answer all of your uncertainties!

The SAT is well known by almost every student applying for college. The PSAT, on the other hand, is much less commonly known, though equally as important in its own right. 

The PSAT, which is short for the Preliminary SAT, is a slightly abbreviated version of the SAT. This means that besides being slightly easier and shorter, the exam is the same as the official SAT. You can think of it as a formal “practice mode” of the SAT. 

The PSAT is less crucial to your admission chances than the SAT. Very few universities require or consider the PSAT score when reviewing applicants. However, the PSAT offers a hefty set of values that this article will introduce. 

This article will cover why and when you should take the PSAT. Now, let's begin!

5 Reasons To Take the PSAT

Why is the PSAT important? The PSAT offers many benefits and advantages for students on their college admission journey. 

If you’re wondering, “is the PSAT required?”, the answer is no. But there are still tons of reasons why it’s worth taking! Read on to discover them. 

1. Familiarize Yourself With the SAT

Taking the PSAT is nearly identical to taking the SAT, as both tests are taken under official, supervised, and timed conditions. Essentially, the PSAT is a complete trial run for the SAT. 

Thus, taking the PSAT gives students a better idea of what to expect when taking the SAT in the official setting. It provides an excellent opportunity to familiarize yourself with the test format, structure, and environment.

2. Excellent Way To Practice for the SAT

Scrabble letters spelling out words

PSAT is a trial for the SAT, which means the PSAT still asks the same types of questions in the same subject areas as the SAT. Essentially, the PSAT tests and measures the same knowledge and skills needed to do well in the SAT. 

By taking the PSAT, you can better understand what type of questions to expect and know which subject areas, topics, and skills to prepare and practice for. Schools don’t require or consider the score. Hence, the PSAT is an effective and low-stakes practice for the SAT. 

But the value of the PSAT goes beyond being just another practice test. The PSAT is official and is very similar to the real SAT, giving students more confidence in what to expect than an average practice test. Also, your PSAT score comes with a complete score report detailing your performance in all test subject areas. 

That way, you can have a more detailed and in-depth introspect into which areas and aspects you’re doing well and what you need to improve. You can create or adjust your study plans based on how well you did on the SAT. 

3. Opportunities for Scholarships 

It’s important to note that just because the PSAT is considered a “practice test,” getting a high score isn’t worth much. The PSAT opens doors to countless scholarships worth an accumulated $300 million. In fact, the PSAT is the only qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program

So, does the PSAT matter? Well, if you want to get scholarships, doing well in the PSAT can be a huge help! 

4. Assess Your Academic Capabilities

The PSAT comes with a score report detailing your performance in every subject area. This means that your PSAT score measures your academic abilities, strengths, and weaknesses in a broad, general sense. 

You can know your academic performance and identify areas you need to improve. This is helpful for the SAT and also for your high school classes.

5. Improves College Preparation

Your PSAT score can show you where you stand academically on the road to college. This includes how prepared you are for the SAT and how well you are doing in your high school courses. 

To see your chances of getting admitted to a specific university, you can compare your PSAT score to the average SAT scores of admitted first-year students.

The PSAT score report also contains information on which college-level AP courses you may do well. So, that adds another layer of preparation assistance. 

If academically savvy students struggle to perform well under timed tests like the SAT, the PSAT can indicate they may be better off applying for a test-optional or test-blind school.

Three students sitting on school steps talking

When Should You Take the PSAT?

The PSAT is taken in grades eight to 10, before the grade level that most students take the SAT (grades 11 to 12). Grades eight and nine take the same PSAT, PSAT 8/9, while grade 10 takes PSAT 10, a slightly more difficult version of the PSAT. 

When to take the PSAT also depends on your plans for taking the SAT and applying to college. In general, taking the PSAT 8/9 helps students to know if they’re on the right track for college prep and upper-year studies, while students take the PSAT 10 to practice and prepare themselves for the SAT.

Students writing practice tests

FAQs: Why Take the PSAT?

Do you still have more questions? These frequently asked questions will help you out.

1. What Is the Point of the PSAT?

The PSAT offers many benefits and value for college preparation, such as SAT preparation, academic performance enhancing, knowing what schools are more suitable to apply to, and many more. 

2. What Is the Advantage of Taking the PSAT?

It gives you a better idea of what to expect for the SAT, which will help your performance. The PSAT also lets you know your academic strengths and weaknesses, which is helpful for standardized tests and your high school curriculum and GPA. 

Furthermore, the PSAT is another indicator of college preparation readiness.

3. Is It Necessary To Take the PSAT?

No, it's not necessary to take the PSAT; however, it is strongly recommended to take the PSAT because of all the benefits it offers, such as effective preparation for the SAT, a thorough understanding of your academic capabilities, and checking your college readiness early, is just too good to pass. 

4. Why Do 11th Graders Take the PSAT?

The PSAT is also available for 11th graders, but it is a bit later than the optimal time, as it may be too close to the actual test date, giving you less time to prepare yourself. However, each student has their plans and schedules, and taking the PSAT in 11th grade is still a viable way to help boost academic performance and SAT preparation. 

Final Thoughts

Why take the PSAT? While the PSAT is much less impactful than the SAT or the ACT, it still offers a wide array of values that will certainly make college preparation easier for you. If the opportunity is there, we heavily recommend you take it. 

To get the maximum value from taking the PSAT, view it as the real SAT, but take your time. Please do your best as you would on the real SAT, but only spend a little bit of time preparing for it. The PSAT is an opportunity, not a burden.

Best wishes on your road to college admission! 

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