Taking the PSAT more than once? Why?

My daughter is a sophomore who took the PSAT this past fall. That sounded great to me and I think it was a good experience for her. But then I heard that other kids (sophomores and juniors) took it a second and even third time. My question is why? Is it not true that you can take the SAT more than once and colleges will use the one with the best score? What is the benefit of taking the PSAT more than once? Is it just to practice and review and try and do better? Why not just do that with the SATs if colleges will only look at the best one? I guess I just don't get it and would like to be enlightened. When I was in high school, I took the PSAT once and the SATs a couple of times. That was it.

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The PSAT is used to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship. For more information, see: https://www.nationalmerit.org/s/1758/images/gid2/editor_documents/studen...

 The only reason I can think of is if you think you have the potential to become a National Merit Scholar, and since the PSAT is the qualifying test for that, you might take it more than once to practice. 


I'm an independent college counselor, and not a huge fan of testing, especially the PSAT. The only reason that makes sense to take the PSAT is for juniors that expect to do really well on it can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. The scholarship itself is only $2500, but winning the award, or just getting nominated, is (somewhat) impressive to colleges. Some colleges have their own scholarships that are only for NMS winners and/or nominees.

At least back when I was in high school (Class of ‘90), eligilibity for National Merit Scholarships was determined by your percentile in the PSAT, but only scores from your junior year would count.  I think I only took it once, but if I’d taken it in 10th grade, I would have repeated just for that.  (People took these tests less, and did less test prep in those days.).  Even becoming a Semifinalist (scoring in the top 1%, I believe) is pretty valuable, for college admissions and other opportunities.   Obviously, becoming a Finalist or winning a Scholarship is even more so.   

Only the PSAT in 11th grade counts for the national merit scholarship. The one in 10th is just a dry run.

You can take the SAT more than once but there are colleges which want all, not just the best, scores. The website of each school will say if it accepts superscores or score choice or requires all scores. Some want but don't require them. The college board apparently also states which schools but I've heard their list is unreliable. I guess you could check about specific schools.

Note also that many schools which are test optional want something else if you don't submit the test, which can be nontrivial.

Better to take a practice sat test with a test prep company. Often these are free And then they use them to try to convince you to sign up for their tutoring. But I think in some cases the practice test is not a commitment to them (read the fine print :)!).
Good luck!

There is more than one path through the college admissions process. For example, some schools are test-optional. However, if your daughter is considering applying to a selective college, she will probably need to have good scores on either the SAT or ACT.  In this case, taking the PSAT twice offers several advantages.  

  • Your daughter will have some idea of what to expect from her SAT/ACT.  For this reason, two data points (sophomore and junior) scores are more informative than one. This will allow her to better evaluate how many times to take the SAT/ACT.  (To convert to approximate ACT scores, look at the percentages.)
  • Your daughter can use the two PSATs (again two are better than one) to identify her weaker areas and remedy these with test prep.
  • If your daughter is a high-performing student, she should take the PSAT junior year to qualify to be a National Merit Scholar.
  • Practice on standardized tests can help improve scores.