HomeArticlesWhat’s All the Hype About the New PSAT?

Dear Estelle. Our son recently received his PSAT scores from the test he took in October at his school and was thrilled with the scores. Every year it seems there’s a lot of fanfare about this test. What exactly is the purpose of the PSAT?

Smoky Hill Parents

The PSAT is actually a practice test for the SAT and this year’s test, as in previous years, is a chance to try out the SAT and see if it’s for you. Many students prefer the ACT and decide to study simply for that test. Students with high PSAT scores in the 98th plus percentile may qualify to participate in the awarding of the National Merit Scholarship. The National Merit is a competition to find the top PSAT achievers in every state. Each state has different cut-offs to be considered for national merit. State cutoffs vary according to numerous factors. The cutoff score is based on the Selection Index which is on the PSAT Score Report. Those with the highest scores in a state receive a letter in September saying they’re either a semifinalist or a finalist. Students are then encouraged to submit additional application materials, including an SAT score, which may enable them to receive a scholarship. So the student may not only qualify for a scholarship but they can put National Merit Scholar on their college applications. It makes a student look highly competitive and some colleges give scholarships based on being a national merit finalist.

The top scorers, about 2% of all student nationwide who took the PSAT, will be recognized as National Merit Scholars.


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