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Why the PSAT Matters, and How You Can Master it!

The Preliminary SAT, better known as the PSAT, is the practice test for the SAT college entrance exam. As most schools require you to take either the SAT or the ACT as part of the college admissions process, the PSAT provides students with an opportunity to get acquainted with the exam earlier on in high school, typically 10th and/or 11th grade. But preparation alone isn’t the only benefit to the exam. The PSAT also opens the door for money towards college.

What money is on the table for the PSAT?

Taking the PSAT is required to enter the National Merit Scholarship Program — an academic competition for college scholarships and recognition. While colleges do not see your actual PSAT score, they do acknowledge recognition or scholarships from the program. In fact, some colleges will award their own scholarships for National Merit finalists or semifinalists. 

And that’s not the only way to earn money for the exam…

Students on RaiseMe are also eligible to earn micro-scholarships from partner colleges just for taking the PSAT, not to mention doing well on it. 

How do I prepare for the PSAT?

Now that you know that the PSAT is worth taking, you’re going to need to know how to prepare for the exam to do your best. 

Like any other test, you will want to follow some basic principles… 

Study and practice

You can take a practice test here

Get lots of sleep

A consistent bedtime and wake time will maximize your restfulness

Set a goal

Know what you hope to accomplish going into the exam 


Write down all the positive ways you are showing up for yourself

Drink water and eat breakfast

Good nutrition will help your brain get ready to perform

When should I take the PSAT?

There are many different pathways for taking the PSAT. In fact, you technically could take it as early as 8th grade. However, a recommended and common option for students is to take the PSAT once in 10th grade, and then again in 11th grade. The value of this path is two-fold: getting extra practice in 10th grade to prepare for the 11th grade exam, where you are then eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. 

In 2019, the testing schedule is as follows: 

Primary test daySaturday test dayAlternate test day
October 16October 19October 30

Many high schools offer the SAT, so be sure to check with your counselor to confirm if it is being administered in your own school. If it is not, you can search for a date and testing center via the College Board

What do I do after the exam?

If it’s your sophomore year of high school, you still have one more opportunity to take the exam next October of your junior year. Take some time to study in advance of that next test. 

If it’s your junior year of high school, now is the time to prepare and position yourself for success on the SAT next spring, summer, or fall. Once you receive your PSAT score, you can gauge the areas you did well, and where you need to spend some time. We recommend setting up a study plan a few months in advance of taking the SAT. 

Lastly, even if you are planning on taking the ACT in lieu of the SAT, the PSAT is still a great way to get accustomed to the format of these types of exams. And your performance on the PSAT can still be used to determine where and how to best study. 

Samantha writes on topics facing students and parents for RaiseMe. She hopes her pieces can help equip students with the information they need to get to their best fit college. Outside of RaiseMe, you can find Samantha reading, writing more, and getting outside to explore all that the Bay Area has to offer.

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