Why PSAT scores have become almost useless!

Discusses the difference between taking a PSAT and an actual Practice SAT Test. A great way to decide how many Practice Tests your student should be taking.

Over 2,000,000 students will take the PSAT this month.  In December, they will see results, supposed predictors of SAT scores.   

Here are three reasons why the better "Practice SAT" is the SAT itself.

1) The SAT is scored faster.  Results are available to the student nineteen days after testing.  The PSAT scores take 40 - 70 days, depending upon when schools choose to assess the results and release them to their students. All students taking the November SAT thus have scores by Thanksgiving; October PSAT takers never receive the results before December.

Result timing MATTERS.  Students who can PLAN in the fall have more opportunities for winter and spring success.

2) The PSAT is significantly shorter than the SAT.  This gives a skewed result for students who may have stamina issues.  It also portends a rude surprise to students who find (sometimes too late) that the SAT is 70% longer.

3) The PSAT math sections do not mirror the SAT math sections well.  The PSAT lacks high level function questions that are likely to appear on the SAT.  And the PSAT lacks "Stopper Math" questions that are on the PSAT.  "Stopper Math" is my term for a hard question that is not placed at the end of a section.  Students who encounter a Stopper Math question may spend inordinate time on question 13, and then feel compelled to rush through questions 14 - 20 in order to finish.  On the PSAT the hardest Math questions are always at the end, so running out of time carries little penalty.  Running out of time with 4 or 5 undone SAT questions carries a huge penalty.  Rushing and making errors on those last 4 or 5 questions may be equally bad.

Thus: students should NOT use the PSAT as their sole practice test.    The real SAT, offered in October, November, and even early December, offers a better practice test experience.  Students who don't want to practice "officially" can instead practice using College Board's online materials (www.collegeboard.org) or buy The Official SAT Study Guide, which contains three actual released SATs and seven simulated SATs.

My firm, Ivy Bound, offers these practice SATs to clients in a proctored setting.  Ivy Bound's staff help students score their practice SAT and students leave the test with scaled 200 - 800 scores THAT DAY.  In late October Ivy Bound does this FREE of charge for non-clients.    It gives every student a good snapshot of where she or he stands.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Margaret Callahan October 10, 2012 at 02:38 PM
People are led to believe they need expensive PSAT PREP to "WIN SCHOLARSHIP $" but very very few are in that percentile for Scholarship $. The "commended" scholars don't get a nickle.
Siwanoy October 10, 2012 at 04:25 PM
"In late October Ivy Bound does this FREE of charge for non-clients. " can non-students take it as well?
Jenna October 12, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Hi. Ivy Bound wishes MORE students would use the free tests that Trumbull and other towns offer. These Practice SATs are good. Ivy Bound actually has no "vested interest" in our tests over another's, and Ivy Bound offers these free of charge in certain locales (including schools that wish to have Ivy Bound come). Ivy Bound does have an interest in providing paid-for tutoring and classes, but only for students who need it. I personally think the SAT is foisted upon too many students. My firm's free test offerings in schools come without any sales "pitch". They help students and parents get clarity about where they would score on a real SAT, so they can make better decisions about what test prep, if any, is needed. Mark Greenstein
Jenna October 12, 2012 at 06:23 PM
The scope of the article was not an all-encompassing "all-about PSAT". Almost everyobody knows that the PSAT is tied to Mational Merit Scholarship money, and many have written about what it takes to be in that elite group of recognized winners. Ivy Bound's piece was to inform about a topic many parents (and even many educators) don't realize: that as an SAT test simulation the PSAT is quite distant, and as an SAT score predictor the PSAT is flawed. The article did not say to eschew the PSAT, but not to rely on PSAT alone. To wit, the article's conclusion: "Thus: students should NOT use the PSAT as their sole practice test." Patch editors do a very good job. To their credit, Milford Patch has routinely published education articles about things parents WANT.
Jenna October 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Yes, we allow adults to take the Practice Tests. Nov 3 and 4 are the next open dates.


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