The PSAT is designed in some ways to be a pre-test for the SAT. Many students wonder : can you skip the PSAT and just take the SAT?
The short answer to that question is yes– if all you want to do is take the SAT, you don’t have to take the PSAT first. But don’t get ready to pass PSAT and go straight to SAT just yet– there are a lot of advantages to taking the PSAT, even though it’s not strictly mandatory.
Reasons You Shouldn’t Skip the PSAT
You shouldn’t skip the PSAT if you want to enter into the National Merit Scholarship contest. This is because the PSAT actually is a requirement for entry into this prestigious competition. To be a National Merit contender, you must take the PSAT in your junior year. This stage cannot be skipped.
You should also consider the PSAT as part of your journey to college acceptance if you want to practice for the SAT under very real test conditions. The PSAT is very comparable to the SAT in terms of difficulty. There are also conversion tables that translate PSAT scores into SAT equivalents, so you can measure your progress toward SAT success. (Kristin offers a comparison of the two exams here.)
Moreover, the PSAT costs just $15 to register, about a third of the SAT fee. So it’s a very affordable way to warm up for the SAT itself.
Reasons You Should Skip the PSAT
There are cases where the PSAT may be an unnecessary extra step that you can and should skip.
If you aren’t interested in applying for the Merit Scholarship, the PSAT will be a lot less important to you, and maybe not worth your time. (Although I always encourage people to consider the Merit Scholarship– just being a runner-up can impress many admissions offices.) If you’ve just realized you are interested in the Merit Scholarship, but your junior year of high school has ended, you can also skip the PSAT. (Doh!)
And of course, skipping the PSAT is a good move if you decide it simply isn’t the right type of SAT warmup for you. While there are students that do benefit from taking the PSAT as a practice run for the SAT in their first or second year of high school, the real SAT can also be a truly authentic form of early practice, with a retake for admissions purposes during junior or senior year.
You don’t have to take the PSAT, but I still strongly recommend it. It’s a low-cost way to practice for the SAT and possibly apply for a Natioanl Merit Scholarship.
Still, your mileage may vary. Many students skip the PSAT and go on to have top SAT scores and wonderful academic careers.