The basic short answer to this question is …. not much. The PSAT (which stands for preliminary SAT) is actually designed to predict a student’s SAT score. So, if your teen took the PSAT he/she would be expected to do roughly the same on the SAT without any further preparation. There are some small differences though between these two tests which I’ll discuss below, but first it’s a good idea to understand the purpose of the PSAT tests. There are actually three of them:
- PSAT 8/9 – This test is given to students in the 8th or 9th grade to see if there are any gaps in their knowledge before heading to high school. It acts as a starting point in a student’s journey to college readiness.
- PSAT 10 – This test is only given to 10th graders in the spring and it’s the same as the PSAT/NMSQT test below.
- PSAT/NMSQT – This test is given to 10th and/or 11th graders, and is the same as the PSAT 10 test except this test is offered in the fall. In addition, the PSAT/NMSQT gives students a chance to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
Now let’s talk about the differences between the PSAT and the SAT:
- The PSAT has absolutely no bearing on whether a student gets into college, where the SAT (or ACT) is a common requirement for applying to college.
- The SAT is longer that the PSAT, but only by about 15 minutes (unless the student opts to take the essay portion of the SAT – see below).
- There is no essay portion to the PSAT, but there is an optional essay portion to the SAT. If a student chooses to do the essay portion, it will add an additional hour to the length of the test.
- The overall score range for the PSAT is 320-1520, while the overall score range for the SAT is 400-1600.
- The SAT is a little more difficult than the PSAT.
So, if your teen did well on the PSAT that means they’ll do well on the SAT….right? The answer to that question is probably, but keep in mind your teen’s perception of the SAT vs. the PSAT. There’s a lot more riding on the SAT! Also, it’s taken in an unfamiliar environment (at a testing center) with lots of strangers. Test anxiety can play a greater role in your teens’s performance on the SAT than on the PSAT. Here are some ideas to help alleviate some of this anxiety:
- Students should take as many SAT practice tests as possible. That way they’ll be more familiar with the format and feel more confident going into the test. Here’s a link to 8 free, downloadable SAT practice tests. https://blog.prepscholar.com/complete-official-sat-practice-tests-free-links
- Have them take the first real SAT test in the fall of their junior year. That way they’ll have time to take it again in the spring if they want to bring up their score.
- Make sure they understand how superscoring works (https://blog.collegeboard.org/what-is-an-sat-superscore) and that they can take the test as many times as they like.
Good luck! 🤓