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What is the PSAT?

The Preliminary SAT (PSAT), also referred to as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), is a standardized test offered to students in the Fall of their Sophomore and Junior years. While the questions are less complex compared to those on the SAT, the PSAT is intended to provide students with a predictive score range of how they would potentially perform on the actual SAT.

The PSAT is not used by colleges for admissions purposes and thus has the reputation of being the P(ractice)-SAT. The being said, we strongly encourage students to prepare for the PSAT as it is a crucial stepping stone for later testing success. It is also the only way students can qualify for National Merit recognition.

To make matters more confusing, the College Board introduced the PSAT 10 and the PSAT 8/9 in 2016. The PSAT 10 is essentially the same test as the PSAT/NMQST but it is offered in the spring (February or March) of Sophomore year. It is meant to act as a “check-in” on student progress and pinpoint areas for development. Likewise, the PSAT 8/9 is ostensibly designed to test a student's readiness as he or she enters high school. It is only a matter of time until the College Board unveils the PSAT Pre-K.

There Is A New SAT?

Yes. As of March 2016, the College Board is administering a fully redesigned SAT that is more closely aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards. This is not the first time the College Board has made alterations to the SAT. Prior to 1994, students were not allowed to use calculators on the Math portion of the test. In 2005, the infamous analogy questions were dropped and a Writing section was incorporated. However, the new SAT is a complete overhaul and rethinking of the SAT, whereas earlier changes were less comprehensive and sweeping in scope.

Which Test Should I Take?

Good question! During the initial consultation, we can help you determine which testing path is best for your needs.

What are the SAT Subject Tests?

The SAT Subject Tests (formally known as the SAT IIs) are hour-long, multiple-choice tests designed to measure students’ knowledge and skills in particular subject areas. Generally speaking, they are intended to provide corroborating evidence for a student's grades and teachers' letters of recommendations. We recommended that students take the Subject Tests in May or June of their Junior Year to correspond with the peak of their studying for AP or IB exams.

Not all colleges require the SAT Subject Tests. Before you sign up for the tests, be sure to look at the college websites to verify you need to take them.

What is a good score?

Unfortunately, you cannot receive an "A" on the ACT or SAT and only a tiny fraction of students every year receive a perfect score. Parents and students need to recalibrate what it means to succeed on standardized tests.

A good score is whatever score makes you competitive as an applicant to the schools to which you anticipate applying. Most schools will supply their median SAT or ACT score range for students offered admission in the prior year. This should provide you with a target score range. We have also compiled a list of schools to which our students commonly apply and their respective median score ranges.

How do I register for the tests?

To register for the SAT online, visit the CollegeBoard website.

To register for the ACT online, visit the ACT website.

Should I take the test just once?

In general, most students will take the ACT and the SAT more than once. The College Board reports that "on average, juniors repeating the SAT as seniors improved their combined critical reading, mathematics, and writing scores by approximately 40 points." Furthermore, as most schools "super score" it is in your best interest to take these tests multiple times.

What Is Super Scoring?

Superscoring is an unofficial term that refers to the practice by many college admissions committees to only consider your best scores in each SAT or ACT subject even if those were taken on different dates. This not only benefits you, it also benefits the colleges: a higher median SAT “superscore” will make them seem more competitive and could potentially boost their rankings.

What is score choice?

Both the SAT and the ACT allow you to choose which test date score you want to send to colleges. Sick throughout the May test? Distracted by your pencil tapping neighbor during the March test? No problem: Use Score Choice and simply send colleges your June score.

Unfortunately, institutions differ in policy on Score Choice. The College Board provides a list of Institutions and their SAT Score Choice Policies.

As you might decide at the last minute to apply to a school that does not accept Score Choice, your best strategy is to assume that all of your scores will be sent to colleges.

Should I pay for the score report?

Not unless you are taking the October, January or May SAT. If you take it during one of those three months, you will receive a booklet copy of the SAT questions along with a detailed report of your answers. For the other months, you will only receive the answer report, which does not provide enough insight to warrant the additional cost. Likewise, you can receive a copy of your test booklet for the December, April, and June ACTs but not for the September, October, and February test administrations.

At Stumptown we focus principally on specialized one-on-one test preparation but we would be happy to make recommendations for private college counselors who can assist you with the admissions process.

We would also encourage all of our students and their parents to read the following books to familiarize themselves with the admissions process.