By Dr. Belinda Leon,
Senior Advisor with USP – University Scholar Program
The PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) is scheduled for October 12, 2023 for students in the United States and it will be the first time the PSAT will be in a digital format! Are we really ready? The PSAT is the precursor to the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) which is expected to be offered fully digital by March, 2024.
Based on previous changes to the SAT (back in 2005 and 2016), we should expect some headaches and hiccups along the way. They are bound to happen! As much as the College Board will try for a perfect rollout of its test, it will be difficult to achieve. There could be computer issues, confusion at testing sites, or delays in the release of test scores.
The SAT is a test that high school students take in their Junior and Senior year for colleges to consider when a student applies to school. SAT scores can also be used for scholarships such as the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship- the most coveted scholarship in Florida!
The PSAT is the practice exam taken before the SAT which also help students qualify for scholarships or honorable recognitions. Yes, there are many colleges that have declared themselves test blind or test optional, but in the state of Florida all state colleges and universities still require it for admissions.
This new digital format will have its greatest impact on 11th graders. For 9th and 10th graders, this is truly a practice test and a great way for them to start understanding the new format. 12th graders will no longer be taking the PSAT, but instead will be focusing on the SAT. Therefore, the concern lies with the Juniors who will take their last PSAT in 2023. The October PSAT for Juniors will be the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).
A student who are recognized as National Merit Semifinalist can use this prestigious achievement on college applications to help with admissions. Many colleges and corporate sponsors offer scholarships exclusive to Semifinalists. There are even more scholarship dollars available to those that move on to be Finalists or actual Scholars.
Finalists and Scholars can also qualify for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship without having to meet the minimum GPA or SAT/ACT scores required. The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship will pay between 75-100% of a Florida state college or university tuition costs.
Considering this is the first digital administration for the PSAT/NMSQT and that there has been no proper practice material for a digital PSAT, it will be interesting to see how many students qualify as National Merit this year. Qualification for the designation varies from state to state because it depends on how many students take the test and how high the top scores are. Typically, the top 1% of student scorers qualify. There is not much a Junior can do other than to try their best on the PSAT, however, there are options for the SAT!
If you do not want to be a guinea pig for the digital SAT that will be offered for the first time in March 2024, then both Juniors and Seniors need to focus on the last offerings of the paper and pencil version of the SAT (dates below). In fact, Seniors should be finished with SAT testing before March 2024 and make the October 2023 SAT test the last attempt.
Juniors should focus on the August 2023 and October 2023 test dates with November 2023 and December 2023 dates as retakes if needed. If Juniors can finish with SAT test taking by December 2023, they will avoid the digital SAT that starts in March 2024.
Note, it is expected that the November 2023 and December 2023 test dates will fill up quickly as students across the country try to avoid the digital version.
What if your 11th grader is simply not ready for the SAT during the first half of Junior year? Normally, I recommend Juniors to start SAT testing after January of 11th grade. If that is your student – then go for the ACT (American College Testing). The ACT is just as accepted by colleges as the SAT. Albeit, it is a different test in style and format. However, it is actually better for certain students.
n this case, I am simply referring to the fact that a Junior can wait to finish their first semester of 11th grade before doing a standardized college admissions test and still have the paper and pencil experience.
The ACT dates are:
Remember, the SAT and the ACT are both used for college admissions and scholarship qualifications, but they are not the only deciding factors. Grades, advanced coursework, essays, and extra-curricular activities are also taken into serious consideration by a university for your admissions as well as scholarship awards. Try your best on the test and don’t forget to shine in other areas. There is a college path for everyone!