Introduction of PSAT
The Preliminary SAT or commonly known as PSAT. It is a standardized exam that is aimed at those students who intend to attempt SAT. It is a preparation test for them. This particular test is often referred to as PSAT, and NMSQT. NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The students who pass the PSAT/NMSQT can also qualify for National Merit Scholarship. PSAT/NMSQT is usually held in October or November. In 2015, PSAT was revised and now it consists of two different sections. One is evidence-based reading and writing, and the second is Math. The first section is further separated into a reading test, writing, and a language test.
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Management and Function of the PSAT
The total duration for PSAT is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The format of PSAT consists of multiple-choice questions. But the mathematical part of the test also contains gridded response questions. The score of PSAT ranges from 320 to 1520, which includes 160 to 760 for each of the two sections. The PSAT section scores are later converted to a selection index by the national merit scholarship corporation. The selection index has a range of 48 to 228. This selection index is used to assess semi-finalists for the national merit scholarship. Mostly the top 1% of students qualify to be then semi-finalists. The qualifying score differs from state to state, the average score is around 214. “Commended students” are recognized through the selection index. The commended students are those whose score reaches a specific level, a score that is above 202 but below the score of semi-finalists. But the score can vary.
Background of the PSAT
The college board started and conducted the first PSAT in 1959. The National Merit Scholarship Program began in 1955, it was a privately funded program. In 1971, The National Merit Scholarship adopted the PSAT as a standard qualifying test. Around 3.5 million high school students appear on the PSAT every year. Initially, only the math and verbal section were included in the test. Later in 1997, the format of the PSAT was revised and writing skills were made part of the test. The revision of the format was made after a complaint was filed by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. The complaint stated that the current format of PSAT was not fair for all genders as it was against female candidates. Statistics indicated that females are better performers than males when it comes to writing. So, the writing section was added in response to that criticism and to avoid gender bias.
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The PSAT vs. the SAT
It is generally considered that PSAT is similar to the SAT, as PSAT is helpful in the preparation of SAT. However, these two tests have some differences as well. The difficulty level of PSAT is lower as compared to SAT, and it is partly deliberate. Some exercises and the difficulty level are similar in these tests as verbal exercises. Although, the mathematical portion of PSAT is intentionally made easier. The score of PSAT is slightly higher in all sections than the same section of SAT. this slight difference in scores reveals the difference in difficulty level of these two tests.
The PSAT is only relevant for those almost 8000 students who win the annual merit scholarship. For the rest of the students and their college admissions, PSAT does not play any role. In a comparison of SAT, the PSAT is shorter in length and requires less endurance from the students.
A published study on PSAT Scores and SAT Scores
A 2015 study of public high school students in Virginia Beach, observed a correlation between the similar section of PSAT and SAT. The similarity between the score was 0.84 on critical reading, 0.82 on mathematics, and 0.81 on writing skills. For the researchers, the prediction of PSAT scores was of future SAT scores for the sample group of students. There are several studies available indicating the same conclusion.
The PSAT and SAT Preparation
These two tests PSAT and SAT have their similarities and some of their differences. Some people consider PSAT helpful for the preparation of SAT, but many other experts disagree on the usefulness of the PSAT for the preparation of SAT. there are types of arguments on the effectiveness of PSAT, one in favor and the second against it. The college board claims the usefulness of PSAT as it tests the same set of skills as the SAT. On the contrary, some experts consider it a waste of time, as the students could spend the same time for the additional preparation SAT. The critics of PSAT consider this test has a poor predictive and preparatory value as the analogous section of both tests shows a discrepancy in average score result, PSAT score being higher on average than the SAT. The decision to take PSAT should be well informed based on proper research on the available data, and goals in mind by the students and their parents.