For most students, the answer is “yes.” But the more important question to ask is likely “When should I take the PSAT?” For the overwhelming majority of students, the best time to take the PSAT is during the sophomore year. The PSAT is best used as a gauge of a student’s strengths and weaknesses, so they can better focus their study efforts for the SAT. However, based on PSAT scores, some students will quality for National Merit Scholarship consideration. This is a highly prestigious award, and well worth the effort if a student has a reasonable chance of earning it. However, it’s a bit more complicated; the National Merit Scholarship consideration is based on PSAT scores taken during October of the student’s junior year. Most students should likely take the actual SAT the fall of their junior year, not the PSAT. So, what should you do?
The best bet for most students is to take the PSAT during their sophomore year. If their score shows promise for National Merit Scholarship consideration, then it might be worth it to take it again during October of the junior year. But keep in mind that the competition for the National Merit Scholarship is tough, and of the approximately 1.6 million students who take it each year, only about 3% will qualify for recognition by the National Merit Scholarship Program, and only about 1% of the students taking the test will move on for full consideration for a National Merit Scholarship. After a fairly extensive process, about .5% of the students who originally took the PSAT are ultimately chosen as winners of the National Merit Scholarship. The odds are slim, but, then again, that’s why it’s such a prestigious award.
How can you know whether your PSAT score from the sophomore year is promising enough to take it again during the junior year and hope for consideration of a National Merit Scholarship? Well, you can’t be certain, as qualifying scores change a bit each year and vary by state. However, a score of at least 1380 is typically required. Remember, the PSAT has a maximum score of 1520, as opposed to the SAT, which has a maximum of 1600. And a PSAT score of 1380 is on the low end of the National Merit Scholarship qualifying score range. For example, in 2017 the PSAT cut-off score in California was 1470.
So, the short answer is that for most students, taking the PSAT during the sophomore year is a good idea. Whether to take it during the junior year is really dependent upon whether one hopes to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
For more information on the National Merit Scholarship, visit https://www.nationalmerit.org/s/1758/start.aspx?sid=1758&gid=2&pgid=61&cid=160
Many high schools are now offering the PSAT to their students, so be sure to check with your school before registering. Additional information about the PSAT can be found on at: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10