Short answer: Probably not.
The PSAT is a preliminary qualifying test for certain scholarships. A fact you may not know is that the score you are required to get to become a Semifinalist depends on your state. Usually for California the score is around 220, which corresponds to a 1480 PSAT (and 1560 SAT). You can only miss a few questions on the entire test. That means that you’d already better be scoring really, really high to care about hitting semi-finalist status.
Ok, but I AM scoring pretty darn high! Isn’t it important to get National Merit?
Colleges care about your SAT scores, not your PSAT scores. National Merit is not even close to one of the top criteria in college admissions. Spend time thinking about your college essays or volunteering rather than worrying about the PSAT. It’s really not that big a deal.
But National Merit gives scholarships, right?
Sure, but so do a lot of places. The National Merit top prize is a $2500 scholarship. If you apply for a specific college or corporate scholarship, you might get more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to get scholarships, but as far as college costs, National Merit is most likely going to be a drop in the bucket. Winning a National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) award is hardly something to stress over. You’ll either get it or you won’t, and again, it’s probably not that big a deal.
So should I even care about the PSAT at all?
Sure, but treat it like an extra homework assignment. It’s great practice for the SAT, and that’s the test you have to worry about!