What is the PSAT? PSAT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test and is used to determine a student's ability to perform well on the SAT exam.
October is right around the corner, and that means it’s PSAT time. But by time the scores are distributed in December, you’ve got other things on your mind.
As a result, you might toss those large, colorful score sheets with the blue, green and gold elongated bands in the recycle bin with just a glance at the scores on the top.
Instead, hang on to that score report!
How are PSAT scores distributed?
“Schools receive two copies of each student’s score report. One copy is … given to the student [along with their original test booklet], and one is … kept with his or her school files,” explicates Glenn Milewski, executive director of the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) Program at the College Board. “The PSAT/NMSQT shares neither scores nor score reports with colleges.”
Why should you save the score report?
“Students and parents need to use PSAT results as a rough guide to determine which college, if any, is likely to be ultimately out of reach,” says Sally Rubenstone, author of The Panicked Parents’ Guide to College Admissions.
“Only in a perfect world can any of us solve every problem we confront. But when students don’t take the time to unravel and understand the questions they’ve missed on the PSAT, then history is likely to repeat itself, and they’ll make the same errors again on the ‘real’ test.”
Let’s unravel the PSAT Score Report so that you can vigilantly look at the questions you missed.
Review your answers
The answers for the verbal, math and writing sections are color-coded for easy reading. The test sections and type of questions are clearly marked.
Four narrow columns of numbers and letters run the length of each colored band. The column to the left represents the question numbers on the test. The next column gives all correct answers by their multiple choice letter. The white column lists student answers. A check indicates that your answer was correct; a letter indicates an incorrect response. The far right column notes each question’s level of difficulty.
Improve your skills
At the bottom of the report, you’ll find an area called “Improve Your Skills,” with suggested improvement areas.
“[These] instructions tend to be broad and vague,” cautions Rubenstone. “Be your own teacher instead. Use the list of missed questions provided on the score report, along with the original test booklet, to figure out where you went astray.”
Percentiles and Selective Index
“The Selection Index is one of the most confusing statistics ever invented,” says Rubenstone. “Ultimately, it determines whether a student is in the running for the National Merit Scholarship competition.”
It is definitely not worth fretting over your percentile or selective index. But because the same types of questions recur on the SAT, it is worth taking the time to understand each and every problem on the PSAT.