It pays to study over summer. Studying for standardized tests during your summer vacation could lead to a big payoff in scholarship money towards your college education. While you may see a disconnect between the PSAT and the SAT, you will soon learn that studying for the SAT can cover all the bases. Take a look through these four reasons why you should prepare for PSAT this summer and how it will help you get ahead of the game.
(1) Studying for the PSAT Prepares You for the SAT
The biggest myth about the PSAT is that it is radically different than the SAT. Parents and students often think that the PSAT needs to be prepared for separately from the SAT. In reality the “P” doesn’t make as big of a difference as most think. Students should simply prepare for the PSAT by studying for the SAT.
The PSAT is a similar, but easier exam than the SAT. The PSAT consists of only five sections (2 hours and 10 minutes total), rather than ten like the SAT (3 hours and 45 minutes total). There is also no essay section or algebra II on the math sections of the PSAT. Essentially, if you prepare for the SAT, you will be overly prepared for the PSAT.
(2) You Can Kill Two Birds with One Stone
The first SAT of the school year is offered on the first Saturday of October. And the PSAT is offered during the 3rd week of October (depending on your school). If you prepare for the SAT between now and early October, you will be ready for both tests!
By taking the SAT and PSAT within a two-week span in October, you will have jumped two major hurdles of high school. While most high school counselors advise juniors to take the SAT in late spring, there is no reason to wait. You may have AP exams and finals in May and June, so why stress yourself out by taking the SAT then too? October of junior year is a perfectly acceptable time to take the SAT.
(3) You Have More Free Time and Your Brain Won’t Melt
Summer time is prime study time for standardized tests. Without the pressure of classes, homework and tests during the school year, students can focus on preparing for the PSAT and SAT during the summer. I actually spent at least 15-20 hours a week studying for the SAT the summer before I got my perfect 2400 score!
Also, doing something academic like SAT and PSAT practice problems will make sure you keep your mind active while school is out. Too many students check out mentally during the summer and return to school in the fall not quite at full speed when it comes time to get back into school mode. Keeping a regular schedule studying for the SAT and PSAT and sticking to it will make sure you maintain good study habits for when school starts up again.
(4) Get College Paid For
The PSAT is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Not only can you receive scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation from your performance on the PSAT, but many universities offer school-specific scholarships to National Merit Finalists.
For example, the University of Southern California offers a half-tuition presidential scholarship (approx. $84,000 over four years) to National Merit Finalists that name USC as their first-choice college with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
The first step in order to qualify for National Merit recognition is to score well on the PSAT. How well you need to score depends on where you reside because the PSAT qualifying score for National Merit recognition varies by state (qualifying scores usually range from 202 – 223 depending on how well other students in your state do on the PSAT).
The PSAT can be intimidating. It is most students first leap into the world of standardized testing. But luckily, the content is almost identical to the real beast (the SAT) and doesn’t require any separate preparation. In addition, you might even pay for most of college just by bubbling in a few correct answers. So there’s no reason to be intimidated!
Shaan Patel is author of McGraw-Hill’s SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps. After earning a perfect 2400 score, Patel developed SAT prep courses in his hometown of Las Vegas before expanding them worldwide through Veritas Prep, where he is currently the Director of SAT Programs.