Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: Taking a practice run at the PSAT

Monday, October 9, 2017

Taking a practice run at the PSAT

Did you know students can take the PSAT for practice, without it counting against them, as long as they take it before their junior year? That's what my twins are doing, and frankly, I'm a little jealous.

Photo Credit: Tavia Fuller Armstrong

Knowing that students often raise their scores on the SAT and the ACT when they take it more than once, I can't believe more of them don't take advantage of the opportunity to take a practice run at the PSAT in their sophomore or even freshman years of high school. But they probably don't know that they can, or they think that it will count against them.

Only the junior year counts

No one ever told me you could take the PSAT more than once. In fact, I only learned that you could earlier this year. I'd been planning on signing my twins up in their junior year, to take it their one and only time, just like I took mine once and only once. 

Yes, it costs a few dollars more to take the test an extra time, but it's less than $20 and I figure that is money well spent. Just the experience of having sat through the test should help calm my kids' nerves the next time they take it, especially since they are homeschoolers, unaccustomed to taking standardized tests in a strange environment.

Improving chances for big scholarships

I won a lot of scholarships when I went to college, but I narrowly missed out on being a National Merit Scholar, in large part, I think, due to the fact that I was not as prepared as I could have been. The PSAT is the only qualifying factor for the National Merit Scholarship, and students should be as prepared as possible if they are even remotely likely to qualify.  

It's much easier for parents to help their kids prepare now than it was a generation ago. When I was in high school, there weren't as many study aids available and I was dependent upon my school counselor to give me information about the test. Now all the information parents need is just a click away. 

Overcoming obstacles to success

I said before that I feel a little jealous of my kids, but really I feel blessed to be able to give them what I didn't have. My high school didn't even offer calculus, which put the entire student body at a disadvantage compared to many other schools, and none of us were offered a chance to take the PSAT in the year or two before it would count. 

I don't know if my own kids will be contenders when the time comes, but I am doing everything I can to help them prepare, including arranging their math courses so as much as possible will be fresh in their minds in their junior year, to signing them up for a practice run at the PSAT. 

Will your kids take this important test more than once? If it's too late for them to get in an official practice test this October, at least get in a few practice exams at home before next year's test date, and if you are a homeschooler, don't forget to secure a spot to take the test as early as you can. Many testing locations only offer a few spots to non-enrolled students, and it can be nearly impossible to find an opening if you wait until the middle of summer to start looking.

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