top of page

Why You Should Take The PSAT

For many APS high school students, the PSAT is their first big standardized test. Many students take the PSAT, to not only prepare for the SAT or ACT (taken in senior year and used for college admissions), but also to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. It can be taken in 9th, 10th and 11th grade. Only the test scores taken in 11th grade ‘count’.

Contact the APS office NOW. PSAT tests must be ordered by the first week in June (BEFORE the June Promotion Celebration).

Some consider the PSAT a practice test, but it is technically a preliminary test for the SAT (or ACT), with one big distinction: scoring well on the PSAT can get you named as a National Merit Scholar finalist and can earn you cash for college.

A number of APS students have been National Merit Scholar semi-finalists, finalists and scholarship winners. Being named a semi-finalist or a finalist really helps with college admission, not to mention being a National Merit Scholarship winner.

Taking the PSAT is also a perfect way to figure out your best strategies for test preparation, especially if you are in 9th or 10th grade.


The PSAT has three categories worth 80 points each: reading, writing and math. The test is divided into a total of five short sections (two for reading, two for math, one for writing).

A perfect score would be 240 Points. The test takes about 2 hours and 10 minutes from start to finish. It can be taken in 9th and 10th grade for “practice”. Scores for 9th and 10th graders are not reported to colleges or saved as a National Merit qualifier. The test is given only once each year, on a Wednesday in October, all across the nation. Results are announced in December of the same year. Students will find out how they ranked versus others in the state.

Unfortunately, most students don’t study or prepare for the test. That’s a mistake. Some high school students (9th, 10th and 11th grade) don’t even take the test. That’s an even bigger mistake.

Here's why you should sign-up for, study and take the PSAT:

1. It’s a win/win for you

Taking the test prepares you for the SAT. You can take it in 9th and 10th grade and your score doesn’t matter. This helps prepare you for the ‘real’ test in 11th grade.

2. The PSAT opens the door for scholarship opportunities

If you study, you have a good chance of outscoring other students in your state. Outscoring means you open up multiple scholarship opportunities. Why would any student neglect this amazing opportunity?

3. You can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship

In the National Merit® Scholarship Program, three types of Merit Scholarship®awards are offered to finalists: National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored merit scholarship awards, and college-sponsored merit scholarship awards. Special scholarships are awarded to outstanding students who are not finalists and meet a corporate sponsor’s criteria. Awarded to 2,500 students across the United States each year, the National Merit Scholarship is a great honor that can also expand a student’s educational opportunities.

Each subject (reading, writing and math) is scored on a scale of 20 to 80 and these scores are combined to create the National Merit Scholarship index. You can become a National Merit Semi-Finalist by outscoring others in your state. In order to do this, you don’t necessarily need to have a perfect score. You just have to score as well or better than the index for your state. Your goal is to beat the state index. For a list of state index scores click here.

4. The PSAT is key to major college scholarships and awards

After being chosen as a semi-finalist, there is a 96 percent chance of becoming a finalist. The only students who do not move up to finalist rank are those who do not submit any information about themselves, do not have good grades, do not take the SAT, or fail to score well on the SAT.

When you complete the semi-finalist paperwork, you will indicate the college of your choice. Only one college can be selected, however; be thoughtful when making the selection. Colleges who have money set aside for the finalists will use merit aid to entice you to attend: full tuition, room and board, books and fees, laptops, study abroad and even spending money. One APS student received an offer worth over $200,000 that included a reserved parking space (and he turned it down)!

5. The PSAT prepares you for the SAT

Taking the PSAT pays off: the College Board found that last year, students who took the PSAT scored 145 points higher on the SAT than their peers who skipped the test.

6. The PSAT helps you compete

College competition is fierce. You need every advantage when applying for college against other students (THAT is why you are in ADVANTAGE Preparatory Schools, right?).

Other students may have already taken it in 9th and 10th grade before taking it for ‘real’ in 11th grade. The College Board reports over half (56%) of the PSAT-takers in 2011 were 9th or 10th graders, which on average helps them score 3.5 points higher on each section of the PSAT when they take it in 11th grade.

7. You can take advantage of My College Quickstart

Every student who takes the PSAT gets access to a program called My College Quickstart. It’s a free resource that lets you use your PSAT scores to predict your future SAT score, go over questions you got wrong on the test, see a list of recommended colleges that are a match for your stated degree interest, have a customized SAT study plan created for you, and even view suggested majors and career choices that might be a fit for you.

Once you’ve used My College Quickstart to review what kinds of questions you missed on the PSAT, you’ll be armed with invaluable knowledge about where to target your studying.

8. Scholarships are available

Depending on your score, you may qualify for one (or more) of the following:

National Merit Scholarship Program – Each year, approximately 7,600 National Merit® Finalists are selected to receive scholarships through the National Merit® Scholarship program. Students may receive either a one-time $2,500 National Merit® Scholarship, a corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship (varying amounts), or a college-sponsored Merit Scholarship (varying amounts). An additional 1,300 students who were not selected as Finalists will be awarded Special Scholarships (varying amounts). Scholarship winners are chosen based not only on their PSAT scores, but also their skills, accomplishments and academic record.

National Achievement Scholarship Program – Outstanding Black American students have the opportunity to be recognized by both the National Merit® Scholarship Program and the National Achievement® Scholarship Program (NASP), though they can only receive monetary compensation through one program. Approximately 800 students each year receive scholarships from the NASP. Seven hundred receive the $2,500 National Achievement® Scholarship and the remaining 100 students receive a corporate-sponsored Achievement Scholarship.

National Hispanic Recognition Program – Although the National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) does not provide financial awards directly to students, being named is an important academic recognition that may lead to scholarship offers from prospective colleges. Each year, 5,000 of the top scoring Hispanic students are recognized for their academic achievement through this program.

Although students are not required to take the PSAT, the exam does help many prepare for the more rigorous SAT and or ACT. It is a good measurement of how well you may score on the SAT or the ACT and can help you target areas for improvement prior to taking the exam.


  • To receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses so you can develop skills necessary for college; (9th, 10th and 11th grade).

  • To see how your performance on an admissions test (SAT/ACT) might compare with that of others applying to college; (11th grade).

  • To help prepare for the SAT/ACT; (9th, 10th and 11th grade).

  • To enter the competition for scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation; (11th grade).

Contact the APS office NOW. PSAT tests must be ordered by the first week in June (BEFORE the June Promotion Celebration).

APS offers the PSAT ONLY to students currently enrolled in APS.

It is one of the reasons APS Has The Best People In Town.

Featured Issues of ROAR
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page