The PSAT is given each October. Most students take it in 11th grade. Some take it in both 10th grade “as practice” and 11th grade “for real”. Only 11th grade PSAT scores count for National Merit Scholarship purposes. Therefore rising sophomores should only be concerned about the PSAT in the following situations:
- they need it for some school tracking
- they need a strong score for self esteem
Rising juniors should be concerned about the PSAT only in the following situations:
- they are in a realistic range of National Merit recognition. Students will be commended with a score of about 200 or higher, depending upon the year.
Students will become semi-finalists if they are in the top 1% in their state. Cut offs vary state by state, between 215 and 225. It’s higher in states with good public schools and highly motivated students, lower in “weaker” states. (multiply PSAT scores by 10 to calculate the corresponding SAT score).
- They are in a realistic range of National Achievement (African-American) or National Hispanic scholarships, also associated with the PSAT and generally with slightly lower cut-offs.
- They need it for school tracking or self-esteem
The PSAT is NOT worthwhile as a practice SAT, as the PSAT lacks the higher level Math problems, essay and length present on the SAT. The PSAT is also inconvenient because scores are not released until December or even later.
Our practice sessions for the SAT give a better SAT snapshot score and you get IMMEDIATE feedback.
Colleges don’t see the PSAT score. As you know, we’re passionate about pushing for test excellence WHEN IT MATTERS; for most students, the PSAT is irrelevant. Nevertheless, if you fall into one of the four categories above and want our help, we can have a tutor add PSAT focus to whatever you’re already doing with Ivy Bound.
The PLAN and ACT Aspire
PLAN was a PSAT counterpart used until 2014. PLAN has been replaced from one test to a series of tests that measure students’ knowledge in grades 3 – 10, called ACT Aspire. ACT Aspire markets these tests to schools, which select tests are free for all ages. The tests for grades 9 & 10 are close to the ACTs format. They are scaled from 400 – 499, but ACT Aspire provides a conversion table to the ACTs 0 – 36 scale.
As of now, ACT Aspire is not available to families; instead schools sign up a whole class of students. Aspire does not do career aptitude the way PLAN used to do. Aspire does give schools measures of learning at each grade level. ACT Aspire does NOT have a National Merit equivalent like the PSAT does.