PSAT Recap & Information

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 we hosted guest speaker Matt Steiner from Compass Education Group for our PSAT Results & College Admissions information night. Thank you Matt! If you were unable to attend, or just want a little more information and a recap, keep on reading!

Before we dive into the nitty gritty test scores, let’s look at context. What are colleges really looking for? The National Association for College Admission Counseling polled colleges all over and asked for the top four factors in admission decisions for first-time college students. Drumroll please…. 
So your day-in and day-out work that you put into your classes is one of the most important factors. But what Matt brought to our attention was that not all high schools, teachers and curriculum are the same. So a 4.0 at a comprehensive college prep high school will look a little differently than a 4.0 at a high school that, say is unable to offer as many AP, Honors and options to its students. So how do admissions level that? Standardized tests. The SAT and ACT are helpful academic indicators that add context to the grades and coursework a student is already completing. It’s an added factor in the admissions decisions (not necessarily THE factor, but an added one).

Okay, so we know the SAT and ACT is one component, but I’m a Junior and just got my PSAT results back…what do I do? Well 1. Not panic. 2. Create a gameplan. Are we all not panicking? Great. Let’s move on to number 2 and create a gameplan. Here it is folks….

  • Take a practice ACT if you have not already done so
  • Use your scores and feelings to decide which exam to take (yes feelings, I’ll talk more about this in a little…)
  • Remember, it does not matter which one you take…SAT…ACT…take your pick
  • After you have decided which exam you’d like to take, choose an actual test date to register for and create a consistent test prep plan leading up to the test date (Matt suggested 3-4 months prior to the test date)
  • Take the exam! If you need to retake it you certainly can…just don’t go signing up for 5 or 6 or 10 of them…focus on fine-tuning your test prep and playing up your weaknesses for the next exam
  • While you’re at it…make sure to take the optional essay…some colleges will require it, so why take yourself out of the running by not signing up for it
  • Speaking of the essay, colleges understand that the essay may not be the best indicator of a student’s ability, after 3 hours of testing it’s probably not your best work, there are other ways to show you have mastery in writing (i.e. your coursework in school, AP exam, a subject test, etc.)

Okay, let’s go back to feelings. Students should have buy-in on the test prep process. This means, if you are a Junior and you took the ACT and just “felt” more confident on the ACT, well then go for it! Parents, please do not sign up your son or daughter for a boat-load of test prep and the exam without their knowledge or against their will. Help give them the power of owning this process.

PSAT Scores compared to SAT Scores

Each section of the PSAT is out of 760. Each section on the SAT is out of 800. These scores live on the same scale. So essentially, if you scored a 500 on the Math section, your score will probably be around a 500 on the SAT. On the flip side, a perfect score on the PSAT does not automatically mean you’re looking at a perfect score on the SAT. The ceiling is lowered. The PSAT is shorter and offers less complex questions.

The percentiles on your score reports are helpful to give you a rough estimate of where you are compared to your peers, however we still encourage you to take a practice ACT and see which test you do better on.

National Merit Scholarships

The top 1% get to participate. If you are a Sophomore and scored in the 90% percentile or more threshold, you might be in the running as a Junior. Remember, before you get egregious and start studying for the Junior PSAT to receive National Merit, there are a few things that are already happening just by being in school.

You will grow and mature in a year. Just that alone will be helpful in testing. These are intense tests that require focus and attention to sit for a long time.
If you really feel you want to do some prep before the October PSAT as a Junior because of National Merit, use some helpful online resources and take a practice exam. At BHHS we offer a weekend practice exam every Fall, check with your school. Kahn Academy and CollegeBoard is a great resource as well (

Lastly, according to NACAC, there are 2,278 degree-granting, nonprofit, four-year college options in the U.S. Better yet, 66% of four-year colleges accepted two-thirds of freshman applicants on average. Amazing! With so many choices you have the opportunity to explore colleges that not only fit you, but colleges that will accept you. So take the time, visit college campuses, ask questions, see your counselor, do well in your classes and relax….because college is coming!

Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: