I get a lot of questions every year about how seriously a student should take the PSAT. Subsequently, I hear all sorts of gossip about how it might be the harbinger to future success or that it doesn’t matter at all because colleges don’t look at the scores. Well, here’s the real answer: it matters to an extent.
As with everything else in life, how ‘important’ something is depends upon the lens with which you use to evaluate it. You absolutely should try to do as well as you can on the PSAT because a) you should always try your best at everything you attempt in life, and b) there are some scholarship offers that preselect using your performance on this test, including the National Merit Scholarship Program. For the naysayers out there who claim that it’s not enough money to warrant the effort, I hope that reading this sentence will jolt you out of that thought because it’s ridiculous. Every little bit helps. Moreover, think of these programs as a notch in your kids’ belts. When all of the other candidates who apply to Harvard and Yale are National Merit Scholars and yours isn’t…you get the idea.
The second question I get pertains to how well success or failure on the PSAT translates to the SAT. In my years of experience working with students, I can confidently say that the trend of that relationship is no trend at all. That is to say, doing well on the PSATs does not guarantee success on the SAT. This is because the length of the PSAT is drastically different from that of the SAT, as is difficulty of the questions. Students also have to write an essay on the SAT that is nonexistent on the PSAT. The only thing you should extrapolate from success on the PSAT is that your child responds well to the TYPE of questions and the type of reasoning associated with both tests. Conversely, if your child did not respond well to the PSAT, do not automatically declare him unfit for the test because you can improve your performance on the SAT with hard work and some tutoring perhaps.
Let me know if you have any questions. Would love to hear from you folks out there!