Making Sense of PSAT Scores

PSAT scores are out, and with them come enthusiastic questions about the PSAT’s big brothers, the SAT and ACT. Here are some important notes to keep in mind as you review your child’s PSAT score:

  • Test prep strategies help students with standardized tests of all kinds. ACT and SAT coaching alike will create a boost in PSAT performance. PSAT scores may reflect the tutoring they received prior to the October PSAT more than their initial diagnostic exam scores.
  • Material and content review also overlap between exams. While the ACT and SAT do differ in content, the core of each is the same. Time spent reviewing ACT content will largely translate to the SAT, and vice versa.
  • The PSAT is a shorter test, is taken in school, and doesn’t have collegiate ramifications. These facts decrease test-taking factors of fatigue and pressure, sometimes resulting in scores that look even better than current practice test scores.

Accordingly, a strong PSAT performance does not mean a student is more inclined towards the SAT versus the ACT. It’s understandable that an excellent PSAT showing could sow some seeds of doubt on ACT preparations, tempting a change to the SAT. If you are doubting the decision of pursuing the ACT, consider these points:

  • Don’t rely on the PSAT alone: take a full-length SAT practice test to see if those results outpace current ACT practice tests as well.
  • Don’t take test-switching lightly. As much as core material and strategies overlap, there is enough difference in preparation for the tests that switching from ACT to SAT could set students back a few weeks or months as they adapt to a new structure and new test-specific strategies.

Students will perform differently on the ACT vs. SAT due to different timing and content standards, and finding the right test is an important part of the process. We take test selection very seriously and are happy to discuss any and all questions on this matter. Reach out to your Director with questions about test strategy and if you’d like to discuss scores more in-depth.