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 just a bit shorter in duration than the SAT (165 minutes rather than 180 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 a 1-time tuition scholarship of $2500! 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 760 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. Until about five years ago, SAT was preferred by the vast majority of American universities, and just a few schools would consider the ACT in lieu of the SAT. Post-COVID, we are seeing a trend in which submitting a score is “optional,” or the university is willing to accept either exam score. 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 used to be heavy on the vocabulary and comparatively light on grammatical rules. All that, however, abruptly changed with the introduction of the Writing Skills section in the 2016 SAT, a “new” exam format bearing a strikingly strong resemblance to that of the ACT. Both exams now command roughly the same facility with grammatical rules and proper punctuation, but the SAT vocabulary cleverly migrated into the Critical Reading passages that are chock-a-block teeming with pesky (and often forgotten) words from bygone vocabulary lists. Clearly if you have an impressive vocabulary or an ability to understand words in context, the SAT is a better fit. The demand of having to re-learn grammar is no longer a deciding factor, since BOTH the SAT and ACT are equally demanding on that skill set.
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. Additionally, the SAT demands that a student be able to appreciate and critique the author’s rhetorical strategy, following closely the line of reasoning and recognizing how certain words or turns of phrase are employed strategically. In contrast, the ACT is more content-based, testing comprehension of large passages and verifying the extent to which a student can track the linear development of an argument. Both exams require students to identify the “who, what, when” of an individual passage, but the SAT takes it a step further, prompting students to tease of the “how, why, and to what extent” purely by the use of nuanced language and cleverly deployed vocabulary. Hands down: the SAT is the more challenging of the two reading tests.
Math:ACT math is slightly more difficult than SAT math, especially on the last dozen problems which may contain basic trigonometry, probability, and occasionally matrices. 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 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