Parents of sophomores often ask us how their 10th graders should be approaching PSAT preparation: go in cold to get a baseline score or prepare diligently to score as high as possible?

In sophomore year, your student may be offered a version of the PSAT. Not every school offers it, so if your student isn’t given the option, don’t sweat it.

Sophomores will be offered one of two tests:

    • PSAT 10: Designed for 10th graders and offered in the spring.
    • PSAT/NMSQT: The same test administered in junior year, this is the official PSAT and National Merit Scholars Qualifying Test. Offered in October.

In general, we suggest students in 10th and 11th grade spend minimal time preparing for the PSAT. The truth is that the PSAT doesn’t matter much in the college process.

"The truth is that the PSAT doesn’t matter much in the college process."

While it may provide a testing benchmark for sophomores, the PSAT doesn’t offer a direct comparison to the SAT or ACT. And students have the ability to make great strides in their test scores between sophomore and junior year—simply by spending another year in the classroom (even a virtual one).

Colleges will never see your student’s PSAT scores; the only scores that matter to them are the ones officially submitted with your student’s application. Some schools are even choosing to go test optional, either for the next 1-3 years or permanently.

Have you heard this line about potty-training your kids? You can start when they’re 2, and it will take until they’re 3. Or you can start when they’re 3, and it’ll take just a few weeks.

In other words, starting early doesn’t always provide a lot of additional benefit, but it does make for a lot of additional work! While your kid is no longer in diapers, the same concept applies to test prep. We don’t recommend that sophomores study for standardized testing any earlier than they need to. The risk of your student burning out on test prep is real.

The best thing your sophomore can do is stay focused on their academics, asking for help when they don’t understand a concept or are struggling with an idea. Then, they can channel the time they aren’t using for test prep into an extracurricular activity, tuning into curiosity, or spending quality time with family.

And finally, it’s not worth creating extra anxiety around such a low-stakes exam. Starting test prep too soon can add significant pressure, especially for students who are particularly anxious or competitive. The college process is stressful enough without adding in unnecessary achievements.

Instead, encourage your student to spend just a couple of hours reviewing a practice PSAT to get familiar with the format. Knowing what to expect on test day, and make sure they’re well-rested and well-fed, is enough. Save the rest of your student’s test prep energy and focus for junior year, when they’ll study for either the SAT or ACT.

At Signet, we can assist students who may be overly anxious about test prep or the college process. While some stress about the college process is to be expected, it shouldn’t interfere with your child’s ability to enjoy their high school experience. Call or text us at 617-714-5262 or email


If you have questions about standardized testing, connect with us! We’re here for you anytime.