Tuesday, September 24, 2013

7 Tips about the PSAT/NMSQT Test and Homeschoolers



Homeschoolers are often confused as to when, if, or why students should take the PSAT test.




1.  What is the PSAT/NMSQT test?  

PSAT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.  Even though the “P” doesn’t stand for ‘practice’, that is basically what the test is.  A practice for the SAT Test.

While the practice part is important, the acronym that is more important (in my mind) is the NMSQT part of the test.  This stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

2.  When should students take the test?

The PSAT/NMSQT test is given each year in October on the third Wednesday or Saturday.  This test is given by high schools, who choose which day they will test.  

Homeschoolers can test at any local school that has room for an extra student.  Call local public and private school counselors to find one who has room for your student to test.  Even though you can call as late as the week of the test, if you call early in the school year, you are more likely to find a spot.  There is a fee for the test.

I have found that private schools and smaller public schools usually provide a better testing environment than large high schools.

Your student can take the PSAT as early as their freshman year in high school.  They can take the test their sophomore year of high school, but you absolutely want them to take it their junior year.  Tests taken as a junior in high school are the only PSAT/NMSQT scores that will be used as National Merit qualifying scores.  (I will post about National Merit scores and scholars on Saturday.)

3.  Should a Homeschool student take the PSAT Test?

Yes.  Homeschool students may have very little experience taking standardized tests (depending on state requirements).  This is good practice, especially if your student does plan to attend college of some type at some point. This test will give you good information about how your students test and what their strengths/weaknesses are.

4.  Why should students take the PSAT/NMSQT Test?

I have my students take the test for two reasons.  

The most compelling reason is for the National Merit Qualifying Scholarship score as a high school junior.  

The second reason is preparation for the SAT.  The PSAT is good practice and the test scores give helpful feedback on the type and difficulty of questions missed.  This helps the student prepare for the SAT test, which colleges do use for acceptance scores.

5. Does my student need to take the PSAT Test more than once?

That is completely up to you, the teacher.  I have my high school students take the test as sophomores for practice, to get a preview of what the test is like.  Basically, I use it as a practice test for the NMSQT test they will take their junior year.  This gives me an idea of whether their score might be a National Merit qualifying score (more on that Saturday). This information aids in the list of potential colleges to visit .

6.  Can I use the PSAT score for community college entrance?

No.  PSAT scores are not used in admissions at any college or university.  My students take the ACT test several months before I plan for them to start taking dual credit classes at the community college.  

I use the ACT test (vs. the community college entrance test) for this because it is a nationally recognized standardized test and allows me another look at where my student stands academically.

7.  How should my student prepare for the PSAT test?  

I covered test preparation previously at How to Prepare for the SAT.

For more information about the PSAT/NMSQT test, visit the college board website.

All information at the college board website applies to home, private, and public school students.

Is your high school student signed up for the October PSAT?

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