As a college admissions consultant, I encourage all my students to prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT exam. PSAT questions are similar to those on the SAT, so prepping for the PSAT provides a jump start on SAT preparations. Since the PSAT is taken in the fall of 11th grade (and frequently in 10th grade, as well), students who study for the PSAT will not only become familiar with the test, but will have more time to focus on areas of weakness, and improve their overall performance.
There are many ways to prep for the PSAT, including study books and online programs:
- Barron’s PSAT/NMSQT
- Kaplan PSAT/NMSQT 2012 Premier
- McGraw-Hill’s PSAT/NMSQT, Second Edition
- Cracking the PSAT/NMSQT, 2012 Edition (College Test Preparation)
- McGraw-Hill’s 12 SAT Practice Tests with PSAT, 2ed (McGraw-Hill’s 12 Practice Sats & PSAT)
- Brightstorm Online PSAT Prep
Of the estimated 1.5 million NMSQT entrants, about 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. These high scorers are notified through their schools that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist. The Selection Index cut-off scores (for Commended Students and Semifinalists) vary from year to year, and from state to state. The cut-off score (varies by state and year) for Commended Student is always below the cut-off score required to be named a Semifinalist.
Although Commended Students are not eligible to continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships, some of these students become candidates for Special Scholarships.