As if the mid-term exam and holiday frenzy isn't enough, our friends at College Board released the PSAT scores for 9th-11th graders on December 13th. Thanks to the overly connected world we live in, posts, shares, emails and texts seemed to sound off simultaneously saying "Ding Ding - Your first glimpse into your child's future success is here. Please click for added anxiety."
Now what? What exactly are these scores and are they useful?
Consider this a holiday gift to decrease the level of stress that goes hand in hand with standardized testing....or at least a bit of information so that the anxiety is at least informed ...
Let's start with what this test is NOT.....
Overall this test (as well as the SAT & ACT) is designed to produce a spectrum of scores. This means that students are not supposed to be able to score high. The inherent design of the tests plays to patterns of thinking. This is often referred to as a "typewriter test".
In a nutshell, the keyboard we use now is not the most optimized layout. When typewriters were developed, an optimized keyboard would have jammed the machines. Technology has taken us so far beyond this worry....so why then do we still use the same, old, non-optimized keyboard? People don't like change. People like easy. Standardized tests play to the idea that people will choose the easiest answer, which is not always the correct answer. It is as simple (and complex) as that. This is at the heart of why strategic test preparation can improve scores.
The overall PSAT score is a window into how a student scores relative to the students in the same grade across the US who also took the test this fall. It also indicates "college readiness". Below the scores you can see the percentile. In the picture above the overall score is 860 which puts this student in the 28th percentile. This means that 72% of students scored higher. It is also broken down to the specific parts of the test and the percentiles for both. Below the individual scores is an indicator for college readiness for this point in time.
You may be tempted to stop here, but the real value of the test, the part that can inform steps moving forward, is in the details.
On this page, a takeaway is the best type of support in preparation for the SAT. When sub scores are clustered, as above, the student will benefit most from test-taking strategy support. If the scores are scattered, content area remediation should be layered in. Next Step suggestions & Question Level Feedback are the hidden gems of the scoring report. Far too often parents (and tutors) stop at the high level data without using the details to highlight specific strengths and areas for growth opportunity.
For parents of 11th graders, the test does present an opportunity to be considered for National Merit Scholarship awards. 1% of all juniors will receives an award, and results are based on state-level performance. The notifications will come next September....so exhale. Nothing to do or worry about in the meantime.
At the end of it all, the PSAT is, at best, practice for future stadardized tests and a vauable piece of data for startegic test preparation. At worst, it is only a small glimpse into your student and his/her abilities and value. Try not to escalate the anxiety just yet....
Katie Garrett and Trish Rohr will be hosting our first Coffee & Collaboration event in early January to talk about the PSAT/SAT/ACT tests, as well as test prep if you would like to know more about what comes next. Click here for more infornation and to register for our event on Thursday, January 5th from 8-9:30 am.