It’s midsummer and the season of barbecues, pool days, and sunscreen – the last thing you may want to think about is standardized testing! Though not the most thrilling of subjects, now is the time to consider how your student will begin the intentional preparation that will equip him for the SAT and ACT.
The Benefits of a Practice PSAT
We touched on the PSAT in our 9th grade emails, but if you have decided to pursue this test then sophomore year is the time to get serious about it! Again, the PSAT is a good idea for students who are strong test takers, as there are scholarship opportunities for the top 1% of test takers, but if your student doesn’t fall in the top 10% or so on practice tests I would recommend focusing just on the full ACT or SAT (and you can skip the rest of this article).
The PSAT your student takes sophomore year doesn’t “count” as far as his score is concerned, but it has three distinct benefits to your student’s education:
- The PSAT is practice for the SAT.
Taking the PSAT this year allows your child to prepare academically, mentally, and emotionally for the SAT. There are similarities between these two standardized tests that will allow you to pinpoint areas of necessary growth.
- The PSAT gives an idea of your student’s national ranking.
While the PSAT score your student achieves won’t “count” this year, it will send you a report describing his national score ranking. You’ll see where his scores rate in comparison to other students across the nation in critical reading, math, and writing. While you don’t need those comparisons to run a successful homeschool, it can be a nice benchmark before sitting for the SAT.
- The PSAT can result in a free ride to college.
This is the exciting part! When the PSAT is taken during a student’s junior year, his score is added to the pool from which are drawn the 50,000 highest scorers. Of these 50,000 some are moved on to semi-finalist status. About 2/3 of the students not chosen for semi-finalist status receive a letter of commendation. “Commended” students are often eligible for a full tuition scholarship and even additional aid from outside organizations. Semi-finalist and finalist students can receive up to full tuition, room and board – all because of the PSAT!
This is why it’s worthwhile to practice for the PSAT ahead of time. Even if your student isn’t in the top 50,000 scorers, the preparation for the SAT increases his chances of an academic scholarship based on one of the other standardized tests.
Again, a great resource if your child is a strong test taker.
Preliminary ACT and SAT
While you’re thinking about the PSAT, don’t forget the ACT and SAT (and if your child is not a strong test taker, just focus on those full tests). Several independent college counselors in the homeschool community recommend taking practice ACT/SAT tests during a student’s sophomore year. I recommend taking a practice test for both (this can be done at home), decide which one your student is more comfortable with and then focus all of your prep work on that one exam.
Don’t forget to borrow a test prep book and get a tutor (perhaps a fellow homeschool student) to boost those scores! If interested, I offer a 16 week test prep course, which you can learn more about here. And remember: colleges don’t look down on a low score the first time around. Most schools will only look at the highest score of all the tests that are sent to them.