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By Mae Mastin, Joliet West

I took the PSAT last Wednesday!

My district is great about prepping us for the ACT. Incoming freshmen take the EXPLORE as a placement exam and then take it again at the end of freshman year to track improvement; sophomores take the PLAN. This is in preparation for the ACT at the end of junior year and is a way for students to gauge their strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for it.

Now, though, the SAT is required in Illinois. To give us an opportunity to practice for the SAT, we were offered an (optional) opportunity to take the PSAT on Wednesday, October 19. Here are my thoughts on it…

  1. It’s a great way to know what to work on for the SAT.
    If you have the opportunity to take the PSAT, do it! It certainly can’t hurt to see what the SAT is like, and it’s basically a practice test—there doesn’t have to be any stress involved. Then you can look at your scores and see what parts you don’t have to worry about moving forward.
  2. Depending on what you’re using the test for, you can prep as little or as much as you’d like.
    Juniors can take the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) to become eligible for the National Merit Scholarship. If you want this scholarship, there are a LOT of PSAT prep materials out there—I wrote an article on my favorites recently. If you’re not a junior or just want to treat the test as a practice, you can opt out of studying and see how you would do on the SAT without necessarily prepping, or you can start your SAT prep early (since the tests are basically the same). This is something I wish I’d known before I started studying—it might have been more efficient to just work on the SAT, since the PSAT is the same test without a few of the more difficult topics.
  3. You can take the test before you’re a junior.
    I didn’t know about this option last year, and I wish I had! A lot of people I know were taking the PSAT for the second time, and there were a lot of sophomores taking it when I did. Although you won’t be eligible for the NMSQT if you aren’t taking it as a junior, it’s always great to get a head start. Also, being able to see the improvement in your scores is a huge help in knowing where you need to focus your attention.

Smile! It’s not that bad—you’ll do fine.

What are your thoughts on the PSAT? What tests are you Taking this year? Please comment!

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