January 22, 2018

Secrets of the PSAT

A few weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Wellington, FL and attend Jean Burk’s College Prep Genius SAT Bootcamps.  She does a phenomenal job of preparing students to take the SAT.  She and I would both encourage you to enroll your 9th, 10th and 11th-grade students for the upcoming PSAT.  Check out this article from her on the benefits of this test!


Imagine throwing away seven trash bags full of college offers! These could include free tuition, room and board, graduate school money, study abroad stipends, unlimited laundry, cafeteria passes and honors dorms. These are some of the great benefits that are given by colleges to students who score high enough on their PSAT and qualify for a National Merit ranking.


Never fear! Help is available for taking the PSAT!

It is a bragging right for colleges to have National Merit Scholars among their student body. These students represent the top one-three percent of the nation. Very often colleges will compete for these students to come to their school. These schools may even sweeten the pot by adding more benefits to entice students like free computers or additional spending money.

The correct acronym is PSAT/NMSQT, which stands for Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is only offered once in October and only counts toward potential scholarships in a student’s junior year.  For a small fee, students can sign up for the test at most local high schools.

Winning PSAT scores can vary several points depending on year and place where the test is taken. In 2013 semi-finalists qualified with a score of 211 (out of 240) in Florida. For qualifying students to achieve finalist status, they are required to write an essay, provide a transcript, post an SAT score, and submit some other necessary paperwork to the National Merit Board before the deadline. The National Merit Board will then choose 8000 finalists to become a Scholar.

It’s important for students to begin preparing for the PSAT in the ninth grade and take the test for practice in October of their freshmen and sophomore years. This will help familiarize them with the test and they will also receive their test booklet back in the mail if they use the homeschool code: 991099. This is advantageous because it can be used to assess their weaknesses and strengths. For maximum preparation, students need to have completed Algebra 1 and Geometry before the eleventh grade.


Jean and I at her recent College Prep Genius workshop!

Another advantage of studying for the PSAT is that students will also be studying for the SAT. The only difference in content is that there is no essay or Algebra 2 on the PSAT. Both are logic tests and can be figured out once a student learns the recurring patterns found on the test. This can take a lot of pressure off juniors and seniors when it comes time to study for the SAT if they have already got the PSAT down. They can just relax and watch the offers come in the mail.

(Call your local high school now to schedule your student for the October 16th PSAT test.)


Jean Burk

Jean Burk is a published author, speaker, and teacher. Her “Master The SAT Class” has been featured on NBC, CBS, TXA21, Fox and The Homeschool Channel. To sign-up for her free report, “Good-bye Student Loans, Hello Free College, click HERE!   Want to contact Jean?  Email her at  jean@collegeprepgenius.com

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Do you have any recommendations on studying for the PSAT? Also, when should my son start studying for it?


    • Hey Jen –

      The PSAT will be changing in October of this year (2015), and there are not a lot of NEW study materials out there yet. You will find an overview on what’s happening with the test on Collegeboard’s website: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-suite-assessments/exam-changes/psat-nmsqt-redesign-specs

      And, you will find some sample questions here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-suite-assessments/practice

      Continue to use any test prep materials that you already have as it is still a timed test that will test a student’s knowledge in reading, writing and math skills. The test prep materials that have been released by other publishers thus far are based off of the information that Collegeboard has released above. I expect to see a lot more specific test prep materials come available from various sources shortly after the first test has been released. I know that’s not the best answer, but since it’s a new test we’re all still learning. 🙂

      Students can take the test as early as 9th grade, knowing that they haven’t yet covered all the content in their coursework. If a student is heading into 11th grade when the test counts as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, they should spend a good amount of time preparing over the summer.

      Hope this helps!


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