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By asoglin
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007 at 2:33 pm in Miss School Manners, Teens.

teacherDear Miss School Manners: My daughter’s friends are talking about the PSAT. I thought that was a test for juniors. Should my sophomore sign up too? Signed, Mystified in Moraga

Dear Mystified: The PSAT is a practice version of the SAT – significantly shorter than the 4.5 hour monster, but with a similar assortment of math, reading and writing questions. The results come back with an individualized report on what exactly went wrong, which can be helpful when prepping for the SAT. But where it really counts is…

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… junior year because the 11th grade PSAT is the qualifying exam for National Merit scholarship consideration. Last year’s cut-off for “commended scholars,” according to Compass Test Prep, was 200 out of a possible 240. Californians who scored a 216 or higher became semi-finalists. (These numbers may, of course, vary from year to year.)

Some sophomores take the exam just for practice. But some, er, zealous parents use the sophomore year PSAT for assessment purposes, then get an SAT tutor to work on weak spots and pump up his chances of National Merit glory. And then there are the really zealous ones who make their kids take the PSAT in middle school too. Ahem.

Most East Bay high schools are offering the once-a-year exam Saturday morning, Oct. 20. Sign-ups are through your teen’s school. Beware: There’s a scam artist at work in Walnut Creek at the moment, phoning up Las Lomas families and telling them they can use their credit card to pay for the exam by phone. Folks, whether it’s the PSAT, SAT, ACT or AP – none of the companies that administer these exams use telemarketers. Why would they? Parents are quite happy to throw money in their direction unprompted. PSAT and advanced placement exam fees are paid at school. SAT money goes direct to the College Board, and ACT to ACT.

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