In October, sophomores and juniors around the country took the PSAT. If you’re a sophomore or junior, an email from the College Board will hit your inbox before the end of the week. When you open it, you’ll get directions to your score report. But what should you do next?

For most of us, the PSAT is nothing to worry about. Colleges will never see your PSAT score. Only the top 1.25% of scorers from each state become National Merit semifinalists. PrepExpert predicts the 2018 cutoff for Maryland will be about 1470.  National Merit semifinalists can show off their success by including the award in their college applications. Additionally, they have the opportunity to compete as finalists for significant scholarships for college. If you’re a high-scoring sophomore and think you might have a shot, click here to learn more.

Although the PSAT won’t impact 98.5% of students applying to college directly, it does offer a golden opportunity for reflection on crafting an effective test prep plan for the SAT or ACT. A score is more than high or low, good or bad: it’s important to evaluate your relative performance on each portion of the test. When you dive beneath the cumulative score, you find clues that may make a significant impact on your choice of test and test-prep regimen.

Specifically, the PSAT provides a clear prediction of how you’ll perform on the SAT.  Even though the PSAT is out of 1520 instead of 1600, the PSAT is scaled so that it correlates directly to your SAT performance.  So unless you scored a perfect 1520, it’s a safe assumption that you’ll score similarly on the SAT. So the PSAT is the perfect baseline to judge whether you should focus on prepping for the SAT or ACT.  In addition to a cumulative score comparison between the SAT and ACT, use these guidelines to help choose the right test prep path for your child.

Flag #1: My grammar score is much higher than my reading score.

The reading section of the SAT is much more challenging, in general, than what you will find on the ACT. In addition, the questions asked are less straightforward. A score that is significantly higher on the grammar portion of the PSAT indicates you child is a more linear, rule-oriented thinker that would thrive in the world of the ACT.

Flag #2: My math score is much higher than my verbal score.

Students that prefer quantitative reasoning over verbal reasoning have an opportunity to stand out on the ACT. The math section of the ACT includes a wider variety of math concepts, and the presence of the science section provides an additional opportunity to display their strengths in a section that simply doesn’t exist on the SAT.

Flag #3: Running out of time has never been an issue for me.

From most perspectives, the ACT is an easier test than the SAT. There is one important exception: time! You have less time per question on the ACT than on the SAT. If you’re never checking the clock on the SAT, the ACT may be more your speed. For this reason, if you’re granted extra time on both the SAT and ACT, we always recommend prepping for the ACT.

Want to see how you’d do on an ACT diagnostic? You can take one for free at our Roland Park office! Click here to sign up.