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PSAT Course Options
The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) or The National Merit Qualifying Scholarship Test (NMSQT) is a test that helps you practice for the SAT. The test also enables you to enter the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship program. It is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and includes the following sections: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math. The Writing section does not include an essay.
The PSAT is usually given once a year in the fall, around October.
To register for the PSAT, you have to contact your high school counselor for the test. Make sure you know the date, time, and location of the test ahead of time. Online registration for the PSAT/NMSQT is not available.
To take the PSAT, there is a $12 charge; however, sometimes schools charge an additional fee to cover administrative costs. The costs may vary by school.
Score reports are mailed to your high school in December. Each school makes its own decisions on how and when to distribute the scores. Scores are not available via phone or online.
If you leave the PSAT testing room before the exam is over, your score is cancelled. However, students should finish the exam because PSAT scores are not sent to colleges.
If you are a junior and are concerned about taking the PSAT to prepare for the SAT, then you have other options to prepare for the SAT. You can visit your counselor for information on other preparation options. If you are concerned about receiving information about colleges, you can complete the Student Descriptive Questionnaire when you register for the SAT. If you are concerned about National Merit Scholarship, then you can still enter programs conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corporation if you meet other requirements to enter their competitions. For more information on the National Merit Corporation and their programs, please visit www.nationalmerit.org.
You can take the PSAT only once a year. The test is given in October every year. Students usually take the PSAT in both the 10th and 11th grades. Only your junior year scores will count towards the National Merit Scholarship Program.
A good score for the PSAT Exam is one that enables you to become a National Merit Scholar. The cutoff score varies from year to year and from state to state. To become a National Merit Semifinalist (NMSF), you must score in the top 0.5% in your state on the PSAT. As a general rule, if you score a 217 or better on the PSAT, you should be a strong contender for becoming a National Merit Semifinalist.
A Commended Scholar means the student was in the top 5% of students in their state.
The cutoff score for Commended Scholar varies from year to year and state to state. To become a Commended Scholar in the state of Texas, the student should generally score 201 or higher.
No, the Commended Scholar award is given for the prestige involved. It is an achievement to become a Commended Scholar and universities recognize this.
A university may offer a scholarship if the student is a Commended Scholar but they do not receive a scholarship from the National Merit Scholar organization.
The PSAT math sections cover up to high school geometry. No PSAT math section will include any math questions from Algebra II; however, Algebra II is covered in the SAT.
If you have the goal of becoming a National Merit Semifinalist, it is best to start by the June before the 10th grade. Otherwise, a student should start by the summer before the 11th grade.
Although colleges do not consider your PSAT scores for college admissions, they are interested in seeing whether or not you were recognized as a National Merit Scholar or Commended Scholar.
“Duke TIP talent search helps gifted students and their families find out how advanced the students’ abilities truly are. Traditional testing often fails to measure the variation among many gifted students who reach the upper limits of scoring on grade-level exams. By taking advanced above-level (at least two years above a student’s current grade placement) testing through Duke TIP’s talent searches, gifted students and their families gain a far better understanding of where the student stands in relation to his/her gifted peers and what level of educational challenge is appropriate. Taking the SAT or ACT in seventh grade gives students a chance to practice and become familiar with the exams that play a major role in college admissions. Students’ early experience with the college entrance exam is helpful in preparing them to take it in high school. All talent search participants receive resources and publications to assist the student’s educational growth.”
Excerpt from Duke TIP website. For more information on the Duke TIP Program, visit www.tip.duke.edu.
“The Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) is a two-year residential early college entrance program serving approximately 400 students at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. It is a member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology. Each year TAMS admits approximately 200 new students gifted in mathematics and science following their 10th grade year of high school. These students are entered into full-time college studies alongside traditional college students and proceed to earn two years of college credit that is transferable in some situations while at the same time completing curriculum to qualify for a high school diploma. Typical TAMS students receive both a high school diploma and more than 60 college credits, allowing them to enter university with enough credit to qualify as a junior. TAMS encourages a strong sense of community and esprit de corps among its students. Class rings, for example, are presented from second-year students to first-year students in a ceremony early in the school year. All students live together in McConnell Hall, a separate dormitory building from the main university population. A limited number of classes are open only to TAMS students.”
Excerpt from TAMS website. For more information on the TAMS Program, visit www.tams.unt.edu.
“The Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) at Stanford University is a continuing project for developing and offering multimedia computer-based distance-learning courses. This program combines the technical and instructional expertise to provide an individualized educational experience to students of all ages. This program offers courses in different subjects from kindergarten through advanced undergraduate levels. The EPGY Program offers distance-learning courses as well as residential summer programs for ages 5 and older. The EPGY Distance-Learning Courses use the computer as an instructional resource to teach students in a virtual classroom session. The EPGY Summer Programs provide opportunities to students to interact with other students with similar interests and abilities. Students also are provided with opportunities to take course that are not generally offered as part of their curriculum.”
Excerpt from Stanford’s EPGY website. For more information, please visit epgy.stanford.edu.