Though the SAT has never been a popular test in the state of Minnesota (about ten times as many students take the ACT than do the SAT), most students will take the PSAT in October of their junior year. Breakaway offers comprehensive test prep programs for both the PSAT and the SAT.
In October of each year, nearly two million high school juniors take the PSAT. Though primarily known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, the PSAT is also a valid indicator of how well a student will perform on the SAT. As such, knowing more about this test and what its results tell you can give you some very good insights into whether the SAT is a good fit for your student.
During the 2015-2016 school year, both the PSAT and the SAT were redesigned and relaunched. With the relaunch, both tests returned to scales similar to the traditional 1600-point SAT scale. The revised PSAT, which debuted in October 2015, has a peculiar 1520-point scale that is comprised of two scores: an evidence-based reading and writing section score and a math section score, each offering a total of 760 points (or 1520 points together). The redesigned SAT offers a 1600-point scale. The 80-point difference between the two tests is due to the PSAT’s elimination of several of the most difficult problems found on the SAT. By eliminating the most difficult problems, the PSAT scale was revised downward from 1600 to 1520. However, the PSAT scores allow the student who takes the test to understand how he or she would perform on an SAT. Thus, if a student scored a 600 on reading and a 620 on math on the PSAT, he or she could reasonably expect to score similarly (1220) on the SAT.
For top scorers, the PSAT is also the test that qualifies students for the National Merit Scholarship. Every year, approximately 16,000 students nationwide become National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists based on their score on the PSAT. Another 34,000 students are recognized as Commended Scholars. Together with the National Merit Scholars, these groups comprise the top 50,000 scorers nationwide.
For the Class of 2017, the cutoff score for Commended Scholars was a 209; the cutoff score for National Merit Scholars was 219. A student’s National Merit qualifying score is calculated by doubling the student’s reading and writing score and adding the student’s math score to that total. That total is then divided by ten. Here’s an example: suppose a student scores a 620 in reading and a 640 in math. The student’s National Merit Score would be calculated by doubling the reading score (620 x 2 = 1240) and adding the math score (640) to get a score of 1860. That score is then divided by ten to arrive at a 186. Cutoff scores for a given class are announced in September of that class’s senior year.