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Why PSAT Scores Have Become Almost Useless!

Discusses the three reasons why a Practice SAT can be better than a PSAT.

Over 2,000,000 students will take the PSAT this month. In December, they will see results, supposed predictors of SAT scores. Here are three reasons why the better "Practice SAT" is the SAT itself.
 
1) The SAT is scored faster. Results are available to the student 19 days after testing. The PSAT scores take 40 - 70 days, depending upon when schools choose to assess the results and release them to their students. All students taking the November SAT thus have scores by Thanksgiving; October PSAT takers never receive the results before December.
 
Result timing MATTERS. Students who can PLAN in the fall have more opportunities for winter and spring success.
 
2) The PSAT is significantly shorter than the SAT. This gives a skewed result for students who may have stamina issues. It also portends a rude surprise to students who find (sometimes too late) that the SAT is 70% longer.
 
3) The PSAT math sections do not mirror the SAT math sections well. The PSAT lacks high level function questions that are likely to appear on the SAT. And the PSAT lacks "Stopper Math" questions that are on the PSAT. "Stopper Math" is my term for a hard question that is not placed at the end of a section. Students who encounter a Stopper Math question may spend inordinate time on question 13, and then feel compelled to rush through questions 14 - 20 in order to finish. On the PSAT the hardest Math questions are always at the end, so running out of time carries little penalty. Running out of time with 4 or 5 undone SAT questions carries a huge penalty. Rushing and making errors on those last 4 or 5 questions may be equally bad.
 
Thus: students should NOT use the PSAT as their sole practice test. The real SAT, offered in October, November, and even early December, offers a better practice test experience. Students who don't want to practice "officially" can instead practice using College Board's online materials (www.collegeboard.org ) or buy The Official SAT Study Guide, which contains three actual released SATs and seven simulated SATs.
 
My firm, Ivy Bound, offers these practice SATs to clients in a proctored setting. Ivy Bound's staff help students score their practice SAT and students leave the test with scaled 200 - 800 scores THAT DAY. In late October Ivy Bound does this FREE of charge for non-clients. It gives every student a good snapshot of where she or he stands.

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Kaptainsteve October 16, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Boy, do I HATE to agree with Jim G.... but he's right on the money THIS TIME. SOME schools, usually the urban (districts with all or high degree of free lunchers) schools pay for the PSATS (and administer them during the regular school day) and the SAT's for all their students through grants from the government or even local universities.
bball fan October 16, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Jim G...there are no sports or activities fees in Branford. Otherwise, everyone who pays would feel entitled to equal playing time. And you wouldn't want to exclude people from playing a sport or musical instrument if they couldn't afford it. And yes, if you can't afford the test, they have funding for that.
Jenna October 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Hi Jean -- I agree with your point about National Merit. For the few students with a realistic shot at landing National Merit Finalist awards, I do urge PSAT study. Note that for my firm, PSAT Study concides with SAT study, so there's no need for a separate course. My point was (and is) that the SCORES are almost useless because as a practice test, practice SATs if not the REAL SAT gives students a better snapshot.
Jenna October 27, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Dave, this is to INFORM. Yes, if informed familes align with Ivy Bound's service, I hope they'll call. Please don't disparage information/opinion that nobody else is complaining about! We don't steer, other that to say that test prep is generally wise. Our site, www.IvyBound.net, has more informative articles and less hype than any other SAT Prep site I've viewed. Please notice that my article downplaying PSAT scores has a "DON'T enlist for PSAT Prep" message. And along the lines of informing...the 40 - 70 day delay IS costly. No student should be waiting until the spring for her or his first SAT. The target should be 11th grade fall or winter at latest! Kids who learn PSAT results in December can't realistically do a bang-up job for the January SAT and are hard-pressed to do decent prep in time for even the March SAT. Unless a student comes in with a VERY strong vocabulary, the word absorption typically takes 3 - 5 months. Please see other articles I have written about why early SAT testing is superior.
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