You might be surprised to learn that the coveted National Merit Semi-finalist status, proudly touted in the Seattle Times and on high school reader boards each fall, is based solely on the PSAT that is taken in October of junior year!
That’s right. National Merit status is based on just one test. But a lot of students don’t know that. And, if you are a kid who tends to do well on standardized tests, it could be in your best interest to study for the PSAT this summer. “What???” you say, “No one studies for the PSAT!”
But that’s not true. The students in the know do study for it. Lakeside, which usually has the highest number of NMSF’s, offered a practice PSAT to their sophomores two months ago. Lakeside understands the system; if strong students move up their SAT prep to the summer between sophomore and junior year, they have a much better chance of qualifying for National Merit status.
“Okay,” you say, “but how do I know if I have a chance?” That’s a good question. It is hard to become a National Merit Semi-Finalist, even if you are a good test-taker. And, it is even harder in our state than in some. That’s because the strongest students in each state are nominated, and we have a lot of good students here in Washington State. For the past few years, the qualifying score in our state has been around 218. Sometimes a little lower, sometimes a little higher.
Do you have a PSAT score from last fall? If so, pull it out. Take a look at the overall score and then look to see where you can improve. Did you miss math questions because you didn’t remember how to do all the math? Did you miss questions on the writing section because you didn’t know all the grammar rules? Historically, practicing math and grammar have been the two easiest ways to raise your PSAT and SAT scores.
But….this year has a wrinkle! There is a brand new SAT coming out in March, 2016 and the 2015 PSAT will be based on the new test!
So, how can you study for it? The same way you would have studied for it in the past, with one big difference. You want to make sure to use the study materials for the new test. The College Board is releasing a study guide with four practice tests in July. And they are teaming up with Khan Academy to have practice questions available for free online, hopefully this month. In the meantime, you can go to the College Board site to learn more about the new test and to see practice questions:
Chances are, you are going to be studying for the SAT or ACT anyway. If you are a good test taker, you have nothing to lose by moving up your timeline a bit and prepping for the October PSAT. And then, maybe you will see your name in the paper in the fall of senior year!!!
Author: Teri Thompson