The PSATs are both a very important number and a meaningless one, for all but top scorers.
The importance: The PSATs provide a baseline score to give a sense of one’s potential SAT score. Anything connected to the SAT is connected to college. Anything connected to a big life change like college is a big deal. To be clear, the big deal is as much about controlling one’s life – college will literally be one’s new world – as it is to anything related to success.
The non-importance: Other than for National Merit award winners, the PSATs are PracticeSATs. The scores are not part of college applications.
For those who did not do well, particularly compared to their friends, there is some good news: through training and hard work, you can improve. I think of Jacob, a student from East Lyme High School, a few years ago. He was distraught that his score was not what he expected and was especially bothered that his best friend Luke scored a lot higher. “I do better in school. Now, he’s saying this proves he’s smarter.” That’s nonsense, of course, but teens have their self-esteem affected regardless of what their elders say.
Jacob took our Winter class. Luke, feeling over-confident, told his parents he would self-study. Jacob’s scores went up by 120 points. Luke’s had essentially stayed the same and now they were even. Jacob kept working with individual SAT prep, took the May test, and relished as he scored higher than Luke.
While revenge on a friend and competition with others is not part of what we advocate, I do know that proper training and hard work will change mediocre PSATs into excellent SATs.