Many states require home-school students to take an annual standardized test, and for most states, the PSAT meets that requirement. It certainly fulfills our obligations in Washington State. The PSAT is offered this year on Wednesday, October 16 and Saturday, October 19. You must register to take this test, and can do so by calling your local public or private high school. Tell them you are a home-schooler, and find out if you can take the exam at their school. It’s easy to call, although you may need to go to the school and pay them the small fee (usually about $15 total with the school fee and test fee). You can find more information about the PSAT on the College Board website.
But should your child take the PSAT if you don’t think they are ready? One parent asked me,
“Would you recommend I have my son take the PSAT even if I know he is not ready for it? I’m wondering if it would be good for him to take it just so he gets a good idea of what to expect on the SAT, but I don’t want to damage his (college entrance/potential scholarships) reputation if he doesn’t do well on it. Thank for your help!”
If your child is in 11th grade, I would have them take the PSAT for sure, to get needed practice for taking the big SAT test. For 10th grade, the test is just for practice, and since it fulfills the state standardized testing requirement, it may be a good idea. But it won’t damage your child’s academic records in any way, since the scores of 10th grade students are not sent to any colleges.
If your child is in 9th grade, I don’t recommend taking the PSAT unless your child is advanced in math, or you need to take an inexpensive assessment test to meet your state requirements. The PSAT is a very inexpensive test, and I know sometimes parents need to watch every dollar. If your child is in 9th grade, and really isn’t ready for it, then explain to him that he may not score well, and that you are only giving him this test to meet requirements. You wouldn’t want a child to get frustrated by taking a test before they are ready, and then develope a test aversion that affects their testing abilities in the future. I know that in some home-school communities, taking the PSAT as a 9th grader is common, but I encourage you to investigate that option before following the crowd.
Taking the PSAT can’t do you any harm in regards to college admission. It may result in good things if a student scores exceptionally high. But taking the PSAT can hurt your child if they do SO poorly that they get all freaked out about tests in general. If they get really scared because they took the PSAT too early and they aren’t ready for it, then they may score even lower on the SAT because of test anxiety.
Learn more about the PSAT, and how to prepare your high school students for success in college admission and scholarships, by reading my new book, “The HomeScholar Guide to College Admission and Scholarships” available on Amazon. Get your copy today!