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      By Dan Marlin

A couple of months ago, we posted a long PSAT explainer, discussing the test’s contents, scoring, implications for National Merit, and more. You can find it here!

However, the availability of the PSAT has changed in the last two months, so you may be wondering what’s going to happen with the PSAT this year for juniors (the Class of 2022). Several local schools were not able to offer the exam in the traditional October window, and some are pushing it back to an alternate date in January. But what if your junior isn’t able to take the PSAT at all? Fortunately, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation allows for what it calls “Alternate Entry” for students unable to take the PSAT in a given school year. This policy has been in place in previous years, but is even more salient now with widespread school closures and test cancellations.

The full document with Alternate Entry eligibility requirements is linked here; the main points are as follows:

  • To determine National Merit eligibility, students may submit an SAT instead of a PSAT, as long as they have taken an official SAT between August 2020 and June 2021 AND have not taken a PSAT in the 2020-21 school year. 
  • You need to request that the College Board send an official SAT score report to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. National Merit must receive your SAT scores by October 15, 2021.
  • You must fill out an Alternate Entry Form by April 1, 2021.
  • Alternate Entry isn’t an option if a student has an October or January PSAT score. For instance, if your child has submitted an SAT from the fall but then ends up taking the January PSAT, National Merit will only look at the PSAT score.

To determine eligibility for National Merit using an SAT score instead of a PSAT score, National Merit will create a Selection Index similar to the PSAT’s. As a reminder, the Selection Index is calculated as follows:

  1. Divide each section score by 10.
  2. Multiply the Reading/Writing score by 2.
  3. Add the Reading/Writing and Math scores to get the Selection Index (maximum of 228).

Here’s what that process would look like for an example student who scored 1400 overall with 720 in Reading/Writing and 680 in Math (on either the SAT or PSAT):

  1. Reading/Writing score: 72. Math score: 68.
  2. New Reading/Writing score: 144.
  3. Selection Index: 144 + 68 = 212.

Because the SAT is out of a total of 1600 instead of 1520, the SAT section scores will be capped at 38 before calculating the Selection Index. This adjustment will allow it to have the same scale as the PSAT for National Merit purposes.

Finally, given that the ACT is much more common than the SAT in Wisconsin, you might be concerned (rightly!) with your student’s ability to take the SAT at all. The College Board has a helpful SAT test center finder on its website. Of course, I would caution you to check with individual districts and schools to determine if the test centers are in fact open – things can change last-minute, and the College Board isn’t always up-to-date on the latest closures.

Hopefully, this information helps make sense of yet another disruption to the normal schedule of high school life. If you think your student may be in the running for National Merit based on their sophomore year PSAT scores, or scores on ACTs or SATs they’ve taken, please get in touch with us – we have several prep options available for both the SAT and PSAT.

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