The PSAT test, administered to most high school Juniors, is a good college planning tool for Latino families. (Photo/Getty Images )

3 important things parents should know about the PSAT

Some parents of high school 11th graders (some school districts offer it in both 10th and 11th grade) might not even be aware their children took the PSAT standardized tests in the fall and got results in December.  The PSAT (the official name is the PSAT/NMSQT) is the precursor to the more well-known SAT test, which is usually taken Senior year and is required for entrance into many of the nation’s colleges and universities. But many families do not realize the lesser-known PSAT is a really important tool to help Latino students plan for college and even obtain scholarships, including National Merit scholarships.

Here are three important things to know about the PSAT scores:

It’s an important indicator of a teen’s math, critical reading and writing skills, as well as college readiness 

“The PSAT tests students on what they should be learning and what they should know by the time they leave high school,” explains Maria de los Angeles Corral, Associate Director of Latino Communications at the College Board.  The students get back the test scores with an explanation of the answers they got wrong. “This puts a spotlight on areas where students are doing well, or not well,” Corral adds. This allows students to discuss with their families and teachers the areas where they could do better, as well as monitor whether the student’s classes have been covering certain subject matters. Students can also prepare better for the SAT test, an important factor for admission into many of the nation’s universities.

The PSAT results offer students personalized feedback on their academic skill areas, and it also allows students to create a customized college planning tool.

It can point students to AP classes 

Advanced Placement, or AP classes as they are known, are a big step in the academic success ladder. According to the College Board, 14.6 percent of U.S. high school Seniors who passed an AP exam in 2010 were Hispanic.  AP’s are college-level classes offered in different subject areas in many of the nation’s high schools.  At the end of the year, students take a national AP test on that subject; a score of 3 or more (out of 5) may allow a student to place out of a college class, which can save families time and money in college. Colleges also look favorably at students who have taken AP courses in high school.

Yet many students might not know if they have the potential to do well in AP classes. For the first time this year, say Corral, students who took the PSAT have online access to AP Potential, a tool which will allow teens to gauge their potential in 23 AP classes.   “Thirty one percent of colleges and universities look to AP experience in determining scholarships, and it shows colleges students are ready to succeed, so this is a good tool for families to use,” says Corral.

Identifies high-scoring Latino students to colleges through the National Hispanic Recognition Program

Based on PSAT test results, the College Board recognizes about 5,000 of the top Latino students in the country through the National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP). “The students can then opt to share their score information with colleges,” says del Corral, and this College Board information the universities and colleges can reach out to students and their families. NHRP students are seen very favorably by universities, which can lead to admission into many top universities — along with scholarships. “The National Hispanic Recognition Program helps Latino teens stand out, and it’s an asset on their college applications,” says Corral.

Corral recommends students and families use the free online resources offered through the PSAT results.

“Students register online with the number provided on their score report, and they get access to My College Quick Start and other tools.  It’s a great resource for Latino families,” says Corral.

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