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The PSAT results are back. Now what?

How to understand the scores

The PSAT results are back. Now what?

Getting back your PSAT results can be a confusing process. You have a score report and booklet with the questions you answered. Now you have to decide what to do with this information and, unfortunately, you probably weren’t told how to use it.

Most of you probably believe that the results you received are not as high as you hoped for, but you don’t know what to do next. Try this:


Test results?

The PSAT scores are similar to the SAT reasoning scores. It is important to look at the numbers, but what is more important is to consider the percentiles to see where you stack up against your peers with whom you will be competing for college admissions. This will probably make you feel better about the results. If you take the PSAT in 10th grade, this should simply be an exercise to make you more comfortable with the assessment when it really counts. When you review the test results, look at how many items you omitted in each category. If you cannot eliminate at least one answer choice, it is best to skip the question. If you answer the question and get it wrong, you risk loosing points for guessing.


The booklet?

The test booklet that was returned to you is a gold mine of information if used properly. The purpose for sending it back is for you to see what questions you got wrong and to figure out why the answers were incorrect. This will tell you if you tend to make careless mistakes or if there is a gap in your knowledge base. If you determine there are concepts you need help with, work on the subject matter with a teacher or tutor.


SAT prep

If you are planning on an SAT prep course, the PSAT booklet and answer sheet should provide the starting point for the instructor to determine what you need to learn to be more successful on the actual SAT Reasoning Test, which will be taken in late spring of your junior year and in October of your senior year.


Difference between PSAT and SAT

?It is important to know that the writing score on the PSAT consists only of grammar questions because there is no writing sample on the PSAT. The strength of this score will be affected on the SAT by how well you write. You can work on grammar and writing, and should do so, in freshman and sophomore year in order to be ready for the SAT.


High achieving students?

If you are in the top 10 to 15 of your graduating class, you may wish to consider a prep course for the PSAT before 11th grade. The PSAT is used as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying (NMSQ) Test for this population. A little prep may mean the difference between being a commended student or finalist. These designations mean a lot in college admissions, since the colleges love to brag about how many students of this caliber they have in their entering class. Aim to be one of them!


Take this seriously?

Although the colleges will not see your PSAT results, it is important to approach the assessment with the right mind set. That means that you should take it as though it was the real thing so that the information you get from it will help you refine your skills for the SAT. The results will also help you narrow down a list of appropriate colleges to consider. If you are working with an educational consultant, these scores will help determine your chances for admission.


Charlotte Klaar is a certified educational planner and director of Klaar College Consulting in Brunswick, MD. Visit her at


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