Full Name: (big breath) Preliminary Standardized Achievement Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test
Pronounced: Must people just spell out the letters.
Nickname: Mini-T or Psssst-At or the Prickly Mosquito
Dates: Next one TBD
Street Cred: Gives you practice for the SAT or ACT exams; qualifies you for bigtime college scholarships
Game Time: Typically, you'll meet this beast in the sophomore or junior year of high school.
Good News: You already have all the skills you need to dominate this test; you've been training your whole life for it, you just didn't know it.
Bad News: The PSAT is a test. There will be winners. And there will be losers. That’s the purpose of tests…. Duh.
Shmoop's Way: We'll help you understand what the test wants you to do. We'll show you the blueprints, train you like a ninja. Attack, dominate, and take no prisoners.
Sounding suspiciously like the name of a lethal insect, the PSAT is in fact a relatively friendly test. Its full name is Preliminary Standardized Achievement Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The preliminary part means that students take the test before taking the infamous SAT or ACT. American high school students typically take the PSAT in their sophomore or junior years. The qualifying part means that the score you get from this test can lead to scholarships offered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and other organizations. The goal of the PSAT in large part is to serve as a wake up call for students who actually care about where they go to school. The SAT / ACT are HUGELY important in your lives. Some kids just didn’t understand that fact – and they ended up not taking them seriously and after vociferous complaints, the educational board thought it wise (and we agree) that there should be a “warm up” exam. And so it was said; and they let it be done.
A sane person might ask: Why would I want to take two or three huge exams in my high school years, especially when colleges only require one: The SAT or ACT? Here's why you should take the PSAT:
It is almost entirely multiple-choice based, with some grid-in questions in the math section. You'll be doing some careful reading, some sentence completion, some fixing of awkward sentences, and some problem solving. You'll also improve sentences and paragraphs, making them stronger and mightier one word at a time. YES. All stuff that you can do in your sleep, if you practice. Shmoop's got practice exams and drills ready for you.Scholarship Time -- WOOT! Here We Come, National Merit Scholarships
When you take the PSAT, you can indicate whether or not you want your scores to be released to certain scholarship programs:
So, friend, now you understand what the PSAT is all about. If you choose to meet it in battle, Shmoop will be there to arm you with all of the weapons, tools, and skillz you need to conquer the hairy beast and to have fun while you're at it. Let the games begin.
Ready to kick PSAT butt and take names? Check out Shmoop's Online PSAT Prep course.