Practicing for the SAT could also be a scholarship opportunity

Students across the country are preparing to take the SAT college admissions exam. From poring over study guides to using smartphone applications, college-bound high school seniors are doing everything they can to give themselves an edge. However, some preparation strategies could provide students with the chance to land a scholarship, too.

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a full SAT preparatory test, designed to give students firsthand experience of the kind of questions they will face in the SAT exam. As well as being a valuable opportunity to get some hands-on practice with a college admissions test, students taking the PSAT/NMSQT could also secure a National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) award that could help pay for academic expenses. In order to apply, students have to take the PSAT/NMSQT during the last three years of high school, plan to enroll in a college following graduation and be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The maximum award is $2,500.

The PSAT/NMSQT measures students' aptitude in a range of areas, including critical reading, mathematical problem-solving and writing. Fortunately, these skills are tested in a more general way, so you won't have to study specific subjects to prepare for the test.

One major benefit of taking the PSAT/NMSQT is to identify areas in which you might not be as strong. As well as providing you with some valuable experience of college admissions exam questions, these tests can help you figure out where you need to improve. Sometimes, you may not even be aware that you need to brush up in a particular area until you take an exam like this.

As well as giving you an idea of the types of questions you'll be asked in the real SAT, these tests can also be a great way to experience the kind of environment you'll be taking the test in. Following directions carefully is something that some students overlook and, as a result, their results can suffer. Remember – it's not just about answering questions to the best of your ability, but also demonstrating that you can follow instructions.

The results of your PSAT/NMSQT can be a good indication of your general college readiness. You can compare your scores with other students and the overall standard of candidates applying to your prospective schools to give you an idea of how you measure up. This can be really helpful when you're doing a college search, especially if you're filling out college applications for competitive schools.

Of course, taking the PSAT/NMSQT also enables you to apply for a NMSC scholarship. Although earning a degree is a valuable investment in your future, attending college has never been more expensive.

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