The Case of the Missing PSAT

Posted by Kate Dalby

When I started coaching the SAT back in the mid 80s, I would often start my evaluation of a student with his or her PSAT booklet from the previous fall.

Usually the students would get the scores back before the winter break in December, and I would get a flurry of calls over the vacation asking for my help. At the same time the students received the scores, they received the very PSAT booklets they used during the testing session.

These tests were a goldmine of information. I could see if the student miss marked, if there were careless mistakes, if a problem was overworked, and I could deduce much about the test taker’s habits. It was a great jumping off point and gave me concrete information that helped me come up with a plan of action to prepare the student for the SAT.

Now I am faced with a student score sheet and a less helpful interface with an online version of the PSAT. The most useful part of the exercise, the booklet, has gone missing. I had seen the trend before this year: schools would not match the student with his own test booklet but mistakenly hand back someone else’s test. Later the schools would just not bother to hand back a test unless the student made a point of asking for it.

But now it appears that none of my myriad students this past year got a physical booklet to accompany the score sheet. Zero.  And thus, my most useful tool for helping the student has disappeared.

I have looked into the situation and have discovered that College Board does not have a policy about return of booklets and leaves it up to the schools to decide about returning the tests. Unfortunately, for some reason, the students aren’t getting the tests.  McLean didn’t attempt to return them, Marshall said they had them but students couldn’t get them, and Langley has a good system for returning the tests to the students.

Many parents are unaware of the issue and so they don’t know that getting the PSAT booklet is an option. But if it is important to you to get insight into your child’s testing experience, I urge you to contact your school’s guidance officer, career center specialist, or other administrator.  Tell them you want your PSAT booklet. [It is important to talk to the school now, in September, before the test is administered.  If the test administrators don’t hear from you, they will think you don’t care.]

Administrators won’t necessarily know of the problem unless someone kindly points it out to them, so contact them today.

Please, if you have a freshman or sophomore, make sure that the schools save the booklets for this coming October’s PSAT.

I just received this note (October 11) from a McLean HS administrator:

Thank you for your email. I know that [the return of PSAT booklets] is currently under review and I will let you know if we decide to return the booklets this year. In the meantime, I can tell you confidently that student input is critical. If you have specific MHS students you are working with who would benefit from this, please have them talk to Mrs. Wheeler directly. The historical philosophy here regarding this issue is that students never ask for their booklets, and then it makes it hard to justify the time spent organizing and returning over 1000 books (9/10/11 grade). If we get the sense that the students are interested in receiving their booklets, it would help. So far – nothing from students. I hope this helps!