Does the PSAT Matter? Should You Put Effort Into PSAT Preparation?

Although the PSAT Doesn't Matter for Admissions, It Does Matter

Students Taking Exam
Students Taking Exam. Fuse / Getty Images

Early in junior year (sophomore year for some students), the PSAT gives high school students a taste of standardized testing for college admissions. But does this exam matter? Should you take it seriously? Is it something for which you should prepare so that you do well? This article explores the issues surrounding the PSAT.

Do Colleges Care About the PSAT?

The PSAT is not used directly by colleges and universities when they make their college admissions decisions.

Your acceptance or rejection is much more dependent on the SAT or ACT unless the school has test-optional admissions. So the short answer is "no," colleges don't care at all about the PSAT. An abysmal score on the PSAT will not have any direct effect on your chances of getting into a college. However...

Why the PSAT Does Matter:

You definitely want to keep PSAT scores in perspective. A low score will not be seen by colleges, so even if you don't perform well you haven't hurt your chances of getting into a top college or university. That said, a strong score on the PSAT can have significant advantages:

  • Your scores on the PSAT are used for awarding many scholarships including about 7,500 National Merit Scholarships.
  • If you are a National Merit finalist (or sometimes even a semi-finalist or commended student), many corporations use this honor to award their own private scholarships.
  • Hundreds of colleges guarantee additional Merit Scholarships to National Merit finalists.
  • Many colleges, in an effort to attract the best students and boost their reputations, offer significant institutional grants (sometimes even free tuition) to National Merit finalists. National Merit finalists are aggressively recruited by colleges.
  • The PSAT is quite similar to the SAT, so the exam will give you a good indication of your level of preparedness for the SAT. If you do poorly on the PSAT, this is a sign that you need to do some meaningful preparation before taking the SAT. If you aren't good at self-motivation, check out these SAT prep options from Kaplan.
  • In the winter after you take the PSAT, colleges will probably begin sending unsolicited mail to you. While much of this mail may end up in the recycling bin, it’s useful for seeing how different colleges try to distinguish themselves. The college brochures also give you useful information for figuring out which types of schools are of most interest to you, and which schools are most interested in you.
  • To reiterate the financial picture -- the combination of a National Merit Scholarship, corporate scholarships, college scholarships, and college grants can add up to tens of thousands of dollars

In general, if you're a truly exceptional student, you should take the PSAT seriously so that you are a contender for a National Merit Scholars. For most students, however, the PSAT's primary value is simply as practice for the SAT.

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "Does the PSAT Matter? Should You Put Effort Into PSAT Preparation?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2016, Grove, Allen. (2016, October 3). Does the PSAT Matter? Should You Put Effort Into PSAT Preparation? Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Does the PSAT Matter? Should You Put Effort Into PSAT Preparation?" ThoughtCo. (accessed January 18, 2018).