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Should I take the PSAT as a Freshman?

Oct 4, 2022

When to start applying to college? When to sign up for the SAT? From the time you learned to read your first book to the day of your freshman year, there must have been many situations where you were confused about the next step. Whether or not to take the PSAT in your freshman year might be a matter of debate between you and your parents. So, should you start your first year off by taking the PSAT? Let us see!

To get the answer to the question, let us first remind you about what exactly the PSAT is for! This will let you understand whether or not it suits your academic needs as a freshman. The main purpose of the PSAT is to qualify you for the National Merit Scholarships and other distinctions. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation administers PSAT. Depending on your scores, the corporation may award you distinctions such as Semifinalist, Finalist, or Commended Scholar. Students who score in the top 1% might even earn financial scholarships. 


High school juniors can only avail the NMSC awards. So, even if your freshman year PSAT score is perfect, it cannot help you earn the National Merit. However, you can still take it for practice and preparation for an improved score, especially if you are hoping to stand in the top 1%. Even if you don’t take it in the first year, you should at least take it in the sophomore year to gain that experience. 

Apart from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards, PSAT is helpful for one more reason. It acts as a good practice for the SAT exam. While the ‘P’ in PSAT actually represents ‘preliminary’, not ‘practice’, this popular misconception is somewhat related to the truth. The content and types of questions asked in the SAT are closely aligned with that of the PSAT. 


Both tests check the student’s understanding of critical reading, writing, and math (although there is no essay writing in the PSAT). Both tests contain questions on the meaning in context, whether it is in relation to a graph, passage, or anything else. Preparing for the PSAT exam and appearing in it will definitely help you develop the essential skills required to score high on the SAT. It also prepares you to perform well under strict timelines and applying strategies like guessing or eliminating the wrong answers to multiple-choice questions. Both the SAT and PSAT exams contain multiple-choice questions. There are no point deductions for wrong answers, though.

Apart from testing similar skills to those required for the SAT, taking the PSAT helps you estimate how well you can perform on the PSAT. The scoring on the PSAT ranges from 320 to 1520, with math constituting a score of 160-760 and the writing and reading sections constituting the same. SAT is scored out of 1600, with Math having a range of 200-800 and the Reading and Writing sections having the same. 


The scales for the two tests are very similar, with the PSAT score being slightly lower due to the fact that it is a little easier than the SAT. How well you perform on the PSAT indicates how well you can expect to perform on the SAT, with the awareness of SAT being a little more challenging. 

Not only can PSAT scores be used as a predictor of how well you can perform on the SAT, but they can also be used to set goals and increase your target scores. Therefore, beginning to get familiar with the PSAT during the first year can only help, as scoring high on such exams is all about preparation and experience. But again, it is for you to decide if you want to take the official PSAT or simply practice on your own with PSAT tests. 


Taking the PSAT can also help you connect with colleges. Tests like SAT and PSAT will help you prepare for applying to colleges. The PSAT can provide your contact details to colleges (if you want to) so they can get in touch with you and share details about the events on their campus, other deadlines, and scholarships. 

If you want to get on the colleges’ rader from early on, then it might be another reason to take the PSAT in the first year. Another way to develop contact with the colleges would be to reach them through their individual websites. 


Now that you are aware of the various benefits taking the PSAT in 9th grade can grant you, what is your final decision? Do you think it will be worthwhile to take it as a freshman?

Should you take the PSAT as a freshman?

It depends on you. Even though the first year is too early for you to be worrying about the PSAT, if you are determined enough, the real-test experience it can give you will be extremely beneficial for your future endeavours. You will get an idea about the real testing conditions and also get an official score report that can help you in setting your targets and formulate a study plan for the next attempt. 


If you decide on taking PSAT in 9th grade, you can talk about it with your school counselor. Schools usually automatically help the juniors sign up, but first-year students might need to specifically ask for the registration. If, however, you decide to skip the test, for now, you can go about taking practice tests and self-studying. That way, when you prepare for the PSAT as a sophomore, you will have a head start, and the whole process will seem much easier. 

Freshman Year Focus: The Essentials

Apart from PSAT, are there other things you need to focus on as a freshman?


Colleges consider the records of all four years of high school, whether it is your academic performance, the courses you chose, your community involvement and extracurricular activities, or your summer activities. It is also important to deeply exhibit your involvement and interest in a certain area to impress colleges. The admission authorities might understand exploration in the first year, but they usually prefer students who are committed to their careers overall. 

Additionally, the first year is a good time to try out clubs and activities to find ones that really interest you and in which you can not only excel but those that might also place you in a position for leadership later in college.

Challenging yourself in honor classes and college preparation is also a smart move as a freshman. Make sure to take Geometry and Algebra by the time you will be taking the SAT. You will also need to have a good understanding of trigonometry and calculus if you are planning on taking the ACT


To conclude, freshman year is a good time to explore and take tests to add to your experience, unless taking those is not rendering you lacking in other areas. If you are looking for blogs like the one you are reading right now as a freshman, you are probably well aware of the importance of good preparation for exams like the PSAT and SAT. You are trying to give yourself a good head start by studying, as well as developing essential skills like writing, critical reading, and math skills. Some first-year students even take the official SAT as part of their study plan to gauge their level and aim for a higher SAT score in 9th grade. By staying aware and active, you are already preparing yourself for college applications. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do freshmen and sophomores take the PSAT if the score doesn’t count for the NMSC?

Even though the PSAT scores in freshman and sophomore years do not count for the NMSC, many students still take the test to get acquainted with the paper pattern and acquire a real-life official experience of taking the test. It helps them to set their target score for the next PSAT exam and guides their preparation towards the right direction. All this helps them score higher on the next PSAT exam. 

2. How does taking the PSAT prepare you for the SAT?

Taking the PSAT test boosts your preparation for the SAT exam. This is because the course material for the PSAT and SAT exams are similar. Almost the same type of skills are tested on both the exams. The ‘P’ in PSAT actually stands for ‘preliminary’ indicating that PSAT acts as a practice test for the SAT.

3. So do you really need to take the PSAT in freshman year? 

Taking the PSAT in freshman year can definitely be helpful, but it might also be pretty early. Focusing on your schoolwork, working on your academic skills, and preparing on your own for the next year’s PSAT might serve just enough. However, if you really want to take the PSAT in 9th grade, then go ahead! Any real test experience can be greatly beneficial and help you score higher the next time you take the test. 

Psat as fresher man


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