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How Early is Too Early for the PSAT?

February 9, 2009

Michelle asked: I was wondering if there is a minimum age requirement for the PSAT.  I have students who are interested in taking it earlier than in 10th grade.

Hi Michelle,

The College Board is the company that makes the PSAT, and their website is www.collegeboard.com.  They would love nothing more than having you take the test as many times as possible, because that is the product they are selling.  Students usually take the test in junior year, because that’s when it counts for scholarships.  You can take it in the sophomore year for fun, so that you have a better chance at scholarships the following year.  I know that in some parts of the country, a few public schools will actively encourage their students to take it in 9th grade.

Information on the PSAT is here:
http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/about.html

Here is information about what the test contains:
http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/prep.html

The test does include some algebra and some geometry.  For that reason, taking the test early may only cause frustration.  If the student simply CAN’T score well, because they don’t have the requisite math, then the test will only be an exercise in frustration.  You don’t want to put your child into a situation where they will feel badly about a test they will need to take next year or the year afterward.  Taking the test very early can backfire.

Consider your goal for the test.  Do you need a cheap annual assessment?  This may fit the bill, since it’s only $13.  Do you want to know how well they will score so you can choose a college?  It may not be an accurate test, because you are measuring the child against students who are much older, so their percentile grade might not represent their score in 2 more years.  Do you want it for SAT practice?  You may get more meaningful practice at home, using SAT prep books where you can TEACH the unknown concepts, instead of test them without teaching.

There may not be anything wrong with taking the PSAT earlier than junior year, but consider what your goals are for the test. What is your reason for taking the test?  Do they have enough math to avoid frustration?  Can you substitute another test that contains subjects they know?  If taking the test will meet your goals, that’s fine.  If not, then skip it until 10th or 11th grade.

Taking the test in 9th grade?  Another fine example of how the parents always know best.  The parent is the only one who has ALL the information to make these decisions.  In public schools, their guidance counselor would only have *some* of the information.  In a homeschool, we can look at every side of the issue to decide!  It’s very uncommon to take the test in 9th grade, but it does happen.

I hope that helps!
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If you need more help with high school tests, I have an audio course that describes them all in detail.  Here is the information about “High School Testing” on audio CD. This audio course is available for free with the purchase of my e-book, “The Easy Truth About Homeschool Transcripts.” It’s one of the fabulous free bonuses that come with the book!

2 Comments »

  1. Elizabeth King says:

    I love that homeschooling families don’t feel like they need to abide by static rules; your post reflects the thoughtfulness with which your readers approach their children’s educations.

    In support of your recommendations: it may be a little overboard to start in 9th grade. However, if students appear to be potential contenders for National Merit awards, taking the test in 10th grade can be nice so they can get some experience under their belts.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post!

    February 9th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

  2. Lee says:

    I agree, Elizabeth. I think that taking the PSAT in 10th is great, and you can begin studying for the SAT at that point if you feel like there is the potential of being the National Merit scholarship. If they aren’t going to potentially win, then you may want to wait and study for the SAT after they take the PSAT in junior year.

    What you DON’T want is for the child to get frustrated with the PSAT or SAT because the content of the test is over their head. That could make their score on the test actually go down, if they get all freaked out about it.

    Blessings,
    Lee

    February 11th, 2009 at 12:11 pm

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