Over 2,000,000 students will take the PSAT this month. In December, they will see results, supposed predictors of SAT scores.
Here are three reasons why the better "Practice SAT" is the SAT itself.
1) The SAT is scored faster. Results are available to the student nineteen days after testing. The PSAT scores take 40 - 70 days, depending upon when schools choose to assess the results and release them to their students. All students taking the November SAT thus have scores by Thanksgiving; October PSAT takers never receive the results before December.
Result timing MATTERS. Students who can PLAN in the fall have more opportunities for winter and spring success.
2) The PSAT is significantly shorter than the SAT. This gives a skewed result for students who may have stamina issues. It also portends a rude surprise to students who find (sometimes too late) that the SAT is 70% longer.
3) The PSAT math sections do not mirror the SAT math sections well. The PSAT lacks high level function questions that are likely to appear on the SAT. And the PSAT lacks "Stopper Math" questions that are on the PSAT. "Stopper Math" is my term for a hard question that is not placed at the end of a section. Students who encounter a Stopper Math question may spend inordinate time on question 13, and then feel compelled to rush through questions 14 - 20 in order to finish. On the PSAT the hardest Math questions are always at the end, so running out of time carries little penalty. Running out of time with 4 or 5 undone SAT questions carries a huge penalty. Rushing and making errors on those last 4 or 5 questions may be equally bad.
Thus: students should NOT use the PSAT as their sole practice test. The real SAT, offered in October, November, and even early December, offers a better practice test experience. Students who don't want to practice "officially" can instead practice using College Board's online materials (www.collegeboard.org) or buy The Official SAT Study Guide, which contains three actual released SATs and seven simulated SATs.
My firm, Ivy Bound, offers these practice SATs to clients in a proctored setting. Ivy Bound's staff help students score their practice SAT and students leave the test with scaled 200 - 800 scores THAT DAY. In late October Ivy Bound does this FREE of charge for non-clients. It gives every student a good snapshot of where she or he stands.