Should You Retake the PSAT?

The PSAT is an exam that many students take only once in high school. Though usually optional, the policy varies between high schools. The PSAT, or Preliminary SAT, is considered a valuable opportunity for SAT students looking to establish a baseline score. It is so valuable that some high schoolers choose to sit for the PSAT a second or third time.

There are valid reasons for both retaking and not retaking the PSAT. But before weighing your options, bear in mind that the College Board has the following restrictions: Students may not take the PSAT more than three times total, more than once a year or as high school seniors.

Consider retaking the PSAT if:

— You’re interested in earning scholarship money.

— You wish to measure your progress after completing significant test prep.

You’re Interested in Earning Scholarship Money

Did you know that the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, or NMSQT, is a version of the PSAT? Students who score among the highest on the PSAT/NMSQT during their junior year are eligible to compete for a National Merit Scholarship, which is worth $2,500.

[Read: How You Can Win a National Merit Scholarship.]

Note that all juniors are automatically entered in the competition just by taking the PSAT, so you do not need to do anything extra to be considered.

While the National Merit Scholarship requirements do not end there — for instance, students must also meet a GPA threshold to earn the scholarship — taking the PSAT/NMSQT is the only way to get your foot in the door. Furthermore, students who are not chosen for that award may still earn scholarships from sponsors and associates of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

If you earned an outstanding score on the PSAT during your freshman or sophomore year, it would be wise to retake it in your junior year to see if you qualify to be selected for any scholarships.

You Wish to Measure Your Progress After Completing Significant Test Prep

The PSAT is important for a handful of reasons, and one is that it mimics the actual SAT. The PSAT is a proctored practice test, administered by the College Board, that takes nearly three hours. Thus, your scores are a reliable predictor of how you will perform on the SAT.

If you took the PSAT last year and have studied a significant amount since then, you may wish to retake it to see if you are truly making progress toward a competitive SAT score. With most high schools charging under $20 for the PSAT, this exam can be an affordable and practical investment in your test prep endeavors — especially if taking full-length practice exams at home has proven difficult for you.

[Read: What the PSAT Is and What to Know About the Exam.]

Consider not retaking the PSAT if:

— You’re having a hard time juggling your responsibilities.

— You would improve more by working with SAT practice tests.

You’re Having a Hard Time Juggling Your Responsibilities

Certain years of high school have the reputation of being harder than others. Some students cite the transition of freshman year as their most difficult period of high school, while others bemoan the academic demands associated with junior year.

If you are having a particularly tough quarter or school year, taking on the PSAT may be too much for you right now. While the PSAT does not require preparation — because it is partly meant to be a diagnostic test — some students may wish to forgo it to focus on other priorities.

You Would Improve More by Working With SAT Practice Tests

The PSAT is designed to be slightly easier than the actual SAT. It is also 15 minutes shorter, or just over an hour shorter if you factor in the optional SAT essay.

[Read: What to Know About SAT Prep Classes]

If you have been practicing with official SAT practice tests and are doing relatively well on them, it may not make sense to revert to the PSAT. Instead, continue practicing with SATs that could provide more learning opportunities by exposing you to the hardest question types and mirroring genuine timing.

It should also go without saying that the PSAT will not benefit your SAT essay score, as it lacks the writing component altogether.

While there are points on both sides of this debate, the low stakes of the PSAT make taking or retaking it a wise choice under a variety of circumstances. Carefully consider how much is on the line for you before passing on the PSAT.

And remember: Because of restrictions around taking the PSAT multiple times, this is a decision best made after sitting for the PSAT as a high school sophomore.

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