Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Does your PSAT score have you a little shell-shocked? You are not alone. However, most worry comes from the unknown. Take back your power, understand what you control, and let go of what you can't control.
The approach I take in reviewing PSAT scores for most students is to use the review as an opportunity to re-confirm how important curriculum rigor and junior-year grades are.
Is subject enrichment necessary? Understand how your score lands in the range of the 1.5 million students who took the PSAT. If scores are in the lower percentiles, consider the possibility that your student needs enrichment support before practicing test questions. Imagine if a basketball player was never taught to shoot but practiced 500 free throws daily. Even with all that effort, improvement might be challenging.
SAT concordance - The PSAT and SAT are scored on differing scales. It can be helpful to view an approximate PSAT to SAT conversion chart that will assist you in predicting your SAT score based on the PSAT results.
Setting realistic goals - According to the College Board, 6-8 hours of practice can lead to a 90-point improvemt. Improving scores over 200 points is unlikely for most students. Understand if increasing your scores by 100 - 150 points will expand opportunities or if you might be better off letting go of the test.
Course rigor and grades matter the most!
Take stock - We use this sheet to track an academic GPA.
Persevere - Do not let go of rigorous courses! It is not uncommon that a Junior may want to let go of an AP class after the first semester if they have a lower grade. In most cases, we recommend perseverance with a lower grade, instead of a less rigorous curriculum.
Senior year is vital - Expect to take a full academic courseload, even if your counselor states you do not need certain academic courses to graduate. High school "internships" do not take priority over academic classes.
SAT School Day - Students should email guidance to know their school's SAT school day. Taking the SAT at school on a Wednesday in March or April is preferable to waking up at 7:00 on a Saturday morning.
Plan - Cramming for the test is a losing proposition. Students should work backward ten weeks from the date and add that date to their calendar to get going with Khan Academy. Be sure to link Khan and College Board accounts so practice questions represent skill sets that need improvement.
Pick one test - There is no magic test. If the student questions if the ACT or SAT fits their test-taking style best, take a diagnostic over winter break. Run a concordance score and pick one test to practice moving forward.
Test scores can matter - Course rigor and GPA are very important. The student's school list and program of study will identify for which schools test scores matter the most. See more here.