The importance of the PSAT (formally known as the PSAT/NMSQT or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is twofold. First, the PSAT serves as valuable practice for the SAT. While shorter in duration than the SAT (130 minutes rather than 250 minutes), the PSAT contains the same question types as the SAT and seeks to measure the same verbal and math skills. Students who sit for the PSAT have a pretty good idea of what type of score he or she can expect from the all-important SAT, taken as early as January of the junior year.
In addition to its function as a “warm-up” exam, the PSAT also provides students with a chance to compete in the National Merit Scholarship program. Of the more than 1 million high school juniors who take the PSAT annually, around 50,000 students score in the 99th percentile and are chosen to enter the competition for National Merit Scholarships. Roughly half of these high-scorers (approx. 25,000 students) receive letters of commendation and nearly a third (approx. 8,500) go on to receive annual scholarships ranging from $250 to $5000! Whether finalist or semifinalist, every student chosen for the competition will attract the attention of top colleges and special academic programs.
What is the PSAT Selection Index (S.I.)?
The Selection Index determines which students will be chosen to compete for National Merit scholarships. The NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) uses this index as an initial screen of some 1.2 million students who enter the scholarship program. In previous years, students with a Selection Index above 213 have been chosen for the scholarship competition. Only students with near-perfect scores in each the Math, Verbal, AND Writing skills sections will be chosen for the scholarship competition. For example, a perfect score in the Math section and above-average performance in the Verbal and Writing sections will still not be sufficient for selection. The NMSC seeks well-rounded students, demonstrating strong skills in all three sections. There’s no room for less than exemplary performance in all three sections. Maximum of 80 points per section.
Is the PSAT an indication of my I.Q.?
Definitely not. There is no correlation between I.Q. (Intellectual Quotient) and a student’s PSAT score. While the PSAT tests high school mathematics and critical reasoning skills, it provides only a partial assessment of a student’s aptitude. Basically, the PSAT measures how well a student takes the PSAT, not much more than that!
SAT or ACT: Which Is Better for You?
Before registering for either exam, determine which one is required by the schools you have selected to attend. The SAT is accepted by the vast majority of American universities, but many schools will consider the ACT in lieu of the SAT. Some schools will accept either score so your best bet is to try them both and select your higher score for submission. Since the SAT and ACT are geared towards different types of students, your goal is to find the test which best measures your skill set and offers you the chance to get the highest possible score. Here are a few generalizations about both exams which may assist in making your decision.
Vocabulary vs. Grammar: The SAT tests vocabulary but not grammar; the ACT tests grammar but not vocabulary. Clearly if you have an impressive vocabulary but weak grammar skills, the SAT is for you. The ACT revisits all of the tedious grammar problems which you may recall from the Writing Skill section of the PSAT. If your PSAT Writing Skills score is substantially higher than your PSAT Verbal, you should opt for the ACT. Otherwise, join the masses, build that vocabulary, and take the SAT!
Critical Reasoning: Both exams attempt to test critical reasoning skills but differ in approach. The SAT is the “trickier” of the two exams, full of traps and pitfalls for the unsuspecting test taker. The ACT is more content-based, testing comprehension of large passages and a variety of math skills in dizzying number of questions. Endurance is the key to both exams, but I find the ACT to be more tedious and repetitive. In short, if you are able to recognize traps and use problem-solving techniques, the SAT is for you. By contrast if you like things more straightforward and have solid reading comprehension skills, then take the ACT.
Math:ACT math is slightly more difficult than SAT math, especially on the last dozen problems which may contain basic trigonometry and probability. If your math skills are strong, either test would be fine. Most students with decent skills in geometry and algebra can succeed on SAT math as long as they avoid the numerous traps for which the exam is infamous. While the SAT has its share of critics who deplore the use of trick in problem solving, I find the exam highly predictable – the same stunts are pulled time and again. Your best bet is to sample some math problems from both exams and select the format which suites your skills.
In a Nutshell…
Students should sit for both the ACT and SAT to increase their options.
ACT focuses on grammar – SAT focuses on vocabulary.
ACT math is harder but less tricky than SAT math.
Strong readers should take the ACT which has longer reading passages and a separate Science Reading section.
How to register for a course?
To Register for any of the courses, you simply follow these steps:
Step 1 – Go to the Course Menu and tap on your exam to select it and view the information. Step 2 – Download & print the Application PDF for the selected course. Step 3 – Fill-out both sides of the Application and be sure to affix signature at the bottom of the Course Contract. Step 4 – Mail the completed application and course deposit of $195 (payable to TEST PREP INSTITUTE) to:
TEST PREP INSTITUTE P.O. Box 16717, Plantation, FL 33318
Step 5 – Upon receipt of your deposit, you will receive an email and/or a phone call.
* Course balance is due on the first day of class.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach us at 954-454-1008