Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Looking for the best PSAT tutoring service? We conducted days of research and compared the top 75 tutoring services, created in-depth reviews for 15 of them, and narrowed it down to the 4 best that will help you increase your PSAT scores and compete for scholarships.

(Not sure what the PSAT is in the first place, and if it matters? Read on to learn why it counts and which students in particular should take it seriously!)

What is the Best PSAT Tutoring?

  1. PrepMaven – best PSAT tutoring overall
  2. Princeton Review – best of the big test prep companies
  3. Wyzant – alternative for families on a budget
  4. Khan Academy – honorable mention for self-guided PSAT & SAT prep

The best of the rest:

  1. Kaplan – big test prep with high minimum purchase
  2. Prep Expert – budget rates with inexperienced tutors
  3. PrepScholar – overpriced tutoring with limited guarantee
  4. Tutoring Service of New York – new service with higher minimum package
  5. StudyPoint – corporate vibe with high minimum purchase
  6. SoFlo Tutors – young service featuring memes
  7. Parker Academics – higher rates for outdated PSAT tutoring
  8. LA Tutors – higher rates for less-qualified instructors
  9. Elite Ivy Tutors – pricey service with long sessions
  10. Summit Prep – less-qualified instructors
  11. Varsity Tutors – uneven quality, no extras


Best PSAT Tutoring in 2022

#1 – PrepMaven

Our Verdict — Best PSAT Tutoring Overall

Price: $79–349/hour

When comparing quality of teaching, price, and customer service, PrepMaven comes out on top.

PrepMaven has assembled an impressive team of Ivy-League tutors to provide one-on-one PSAT tutoring. Most tutors are Princeton graduates with extensive teaching experience. Many of PrepMaven’s tutors were also National Merit Finalists and Scholarship winners (the ultimate goal of high-achieving students when they take the PSAT).

A boutique education company founded by two brothers, both Princeton graduates passionate about teaching, PrepMaven offers more individualized learning experiences than bigger test prep companies. Tutors undergo a thorough training process that allows them to effectively teach students how to take advantage of the standardized nature of the test.

With a range of price points depending on tutor qualifications, families are able to find the right fit for their budget. At just $79/hour, families can work with current students at the most elite universities in the country, like Princeton and Harvard. PrepMaven’s Master level ($149/hour) provides one-on-one tutoring with Ivy-League graduates who have extensive teaching and test prep experience — a lower price than other tutoring services, for more elite instructors. It’s also possible to work one-on-one with the very best tutors at $349/hr, and there is the opportunity to work directly with the founders of the company.

Recommended by US News, PrepMaven also provides free resources for test prep and regularly shares insights garnered from connections with former admissions officers.

Best for:

PrepMaven’s one-on-one PSAT tutoring is the best option for anyone looking for high-quality PSAT prep.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $79–349/hour, depending on tutor qualifications
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League students and graduates (mostly from Princeton) with extensive teaching experience

What we like:

  • Experienced Ivy-League tutors, selected for their passion for education and working with students
  • Competitive pricing — rates are lower than other options for highly qualified tutors
  • Impressive client reviews — hundreds of 5-star reviews on Google and other independent review platforms
  • More individualized learning experience compared to large companies

MIT
MIT

#2 – Princeton Review

Our Verdict — Best of the Big Test Prep Companies

Price: $167–190/hour

The Princeton Review actually has no connection to Princeton University.

However, they’re still well-known in their own right as a large educational company, as well as the publishers of many test prep and college admissions guides.

Tutors with the Princeton Review receive extensive training. They are not required to be Ivy-League graduates or have scored highly themselves on standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, or GRE.

Best for:

  • Princeton Review is a good option for families who want to work with one of the largest test prep companies.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $167–190/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: trained instructors; no specific requirements for high SAT scores or top school

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company

What we don’t like:

  • No specific qualification requirements for tutors—although tutors have more extensive training than some other companies
Stanford University
Stanford University (Image Credit: King of Hearts Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

#3 – Wyzant


Our Verdict — Alternative for Families on a Budget

Price: $20–600/hour

There are plenty of large platforms with large stables of part-time tutors and coaches available to work with students. Wyzant is one of the largest such platforms, with more than 65,000 tutors providing services through their website. Students and families can pick individual tutors to work with from their roster and arrange tutoring services directly.

One benefit of this model is that tutors can set their own rates, which vary hugely. Families on a budget can find online PSAT tutors as low as $20 per hour. However, these tutors might not have any experience or training, and they may not have scored highly on the PSAT themselves or graduated from a top school. Tutors with more qualifications may have much higher rates, as high as $600 per hour!

Best for:

  • Wyzant is a good option for families on a budget who are willing to find their own tutor and take a gamble on quality

At a glance:

  • Cost: $20–600/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: varies

What we like:

  • Marketplace platform means that some tutors list low rates for tutoring, which can make tutoring more affordable
  • Families can choose their own tutor directly

What we don’t like:

  • No training for tutors—which leads to uneven quality of instruction
  • Families are hiring individual tutors, which means tutor qualifications vary enormously, and there are no guarantees

#4 – Khan Academy

Our Verdict — Honorable Mention for Free Self-Guided PSAT Prep

Price: $0

Khan Academy technically doesn’t belong on this list, since they don’t offer any live PSAT tutoring. However, it’s such a fantastic resource that we’d be remiss not to mention it.

It’s hard to beat completely free, officially-approved test prep! And because the PSAT and SAT are nearly identical (both are made by the College Board), Khan Academy’s SAT resources are also great for prepping for the PSAT.

For motivated and organized students ready to work independently, Khan Academy has amazing content. A non-profit educational organization, Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board (the makers of the SAT) to provide free test prep that’s accessible to everyone. That means that apart from the official practice tests, Khan Academy’s materials are the only other materials officially approved by the College Board.

(Many companies will produce their own “practice tests” that mimic the test but are not official tests. All of the official tests are available for free online from the College Board or in the College Board SAT book.)

Students create a profile with a SAT Dashboard that guides them through video lessons, quizzes, practice questions with detailed explanations, and full-length practice tests.

Of course, this resource is quite limited as there’s no tutor or instructor to guide students, craft learning plans, and answer questions.

Best for:

  • Khan Academy’s SAT prep platform is the best option for anyone who wants to prep independently for the PSAT with just the test content, no strategy tips.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $0
  • Tutor qualifications: no instructor, but the materials are approved by the College Board

What we like:

  • Partnership with the College Board (makers of the SAT and PSAT) means that materials are officially approved
  • Individual math concepts have particularly strong content, great for reviewing with short videos and then doing practice with instant feedback
  • It’s free!

What we don’t like:

  • Covers only test content, no strategy—and learning the test format and key strategies is an important component of test prep
  • Content is weaker for Reading and Writing sections, especially compared to their content for the Math sections
  • Self-guided platform means that students have to craft their own study plan and decide which areas to practice—and there’s no one to hold them accountable
  • Refers to the SAT, not the PSAT—the tests are nearly identical but there are some slight differences, which might confuse students

SAT Tutoring Alternatives (that Didn’t Make the Cut)

#5 – Kaplan

Our Verdict — Big Test Prep with High Minimum Prices

Price: $115–200/hour, $1999 minimum package

Along with Princeton Review, Kaplan is one of the biggest test prep companies. We found their tutoring sessions to have a more corporate vibe, perhaps due to their large size.

Kaplan offers four tutoring packages of different sizes. Their minimum purchase is a package of 10 tutoring hours at $1999. This comes out to $200/hour for tutoring, which is a very steep price—especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high test scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Their hourly rate does decrease if one purchases a large tutoring package, but their tutor qualifications remain less rigorous than other options.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1999 for 10 tutoring hours, $2899 for 20 tutoring hours, $3799 for 30 tutoring hours, or $4599 for 40 tutoring hours
  • Tutor qualifications: no specific qualifications

What we like:

  • Large, established test prep company

What we don’t like:

  • Tutors have no required qualifications
  • High minimum purchase of $1999 for 10 hours of tutoring

#6 – Prep Expert

Our Verdict — Budget Rates with Inexperienced Tutors

Price: $59–89/hour

Better known for their SAT prep group courses, Prep Expert also offers individual tutoring that can work for the PSAT.

Their tutors are all top 1% scorers on the SAT themselves, which is a good background for the PSAT. However, the tutors may be inexperienced at tutoring and don’t benefit from training, so the quality of teaching may be uneven.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $59–89/hour; $89/hour for pay-as-you-go, $316 for 4 hours ($79/hour), $552 for 8 hours ($69/hour), or $944 for 16 hours ($59/hour); alternatively, the offer a tutoring subscription service: $299 for 4 hours each month, $499 for 8 hours each month, or $699 for unlimited hours each month
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers

What we like:

  • PSAT tutors are top 1% scorers

What we don’t like:

  • Refund process is difficult and families have reported that the score increase guarantee may not be honored
  • Tutors don’t have training

#7 – PrepScholar

Our Verdict: Overpriced Tutoring with Limited Guarantee

Price: $130–249/hour, minimum $995 package

PrepScholar is another larger tutoring company that offers tutoring with top scorers on the SAT.

We also noted that PrepScholar’s advertised hourly rate (of $50 per hour) is a bit disingenuous, since it relies on including the independent homework done by the student. Of course, any tutoring service can tutor for four hours at $250/hour, assign the student to practice and watch videos for 16 hours, and then claim that the hourly rate is $50/hour…but that hardly seems fair to families.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $130–249/hour; $995 for “monitored prep” with 4 hours of tutoring ($249/hr), $1995 for 12 hours of tutoring ($166/hr), $2995 for 20 hours ($150/hr), or $6995 for 54 hours ($130/hr)
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers

What we like:

  • Tutors are top 1% scorers

What we don’t like:

  • More expensive than other options for comparable quality
  • No tutor bios or information about qualifications beyond high SAT scores
  • Disingenuous advertising that includes homework hours to calculate the hourly rate

#8 – Tutoring Service of New York

Our Verdict — New Service with Higher Minimum Package

Price: $112–160/hour ($1200 5-session minimum)

Founded by a former tutor with the now-defunct Ivy Global tutoring service, the Tutoring Service of New York offers test prep and subject-area tutoring online. Most of their tutors are current graduate students, particularly at Columbia University and NYU.

At $1200, their minimum package for PSAT tutoring is on the higher side.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $1200 for five 90-minute sessions; $2000 for 10 sessions; $2700 for 16 sessions
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates, mostly current graduate students at Columbia or NYU

What we like:

  • Qualified tutors, some with Ivy-League backgrounds

What we don’t like:

  • New service, so client reviews are still limited
  • Higher minimum tutoring packages

#9 – StudyPoint

Our Verdict — Corporate Vibe with High Minimum Purchase

Price: $??/hour

StudyPoint is an older company with more of a corporate feel. They do not have any specific qualifications for their tutors, like scoring highly on the SAT themselves or graduating from an elite university.

Their main claim is their “guarantee.” This is only available for students who complete at least 30 tutoring hours with their program, which is a lot of tutoring! If students don’t improve their SAT scores after completing their Comprehensive Program, they offer 18 additional tutoring hours (not your money back). They are unclear about how this guarantee can be used for PSAT tutoring.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $??/hour; Intensive Program with 60 tutoring hours, Comprehensive Program with 30 tutoring hours, Review Program with 18 tutoring hours (no score increase guarantee)
  • Tutor qualifications: no specific qualifications

What we like:

  • Additional 18 hours of tutoring if students complete at least 30 tutoring hours and don’t improve by 140 points on the SAT (guarantee raises to 220 points if students complete 60 tutoring hours)

What we don’t like:

  • High minimum purchase
  • No specific tutor qualifications
  • Limited score increase guarantee
  • Secretive about pricing — clients need to call to receive pricing information, which is not available online or via email

#10 – SoFlo Tutors

Our Verdict — Young Service Featuring Memes

Price: $60–90/hour

Founded by a 24-year-old in Southern Florida (hence their name), SoFlo is a newer company with a young team.

Their tutors are top 1% scorers themselves and are current college students or recent graduates. We would have loved to see the bios of more of their tutors — they only provide six tutor bios on their website, and a few more in their brochure.

Their website has a younger feel, with a section devoted to SAT memes.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $60–90/hour; $90/hour for pay-as-you-go, $1500 for 20 hours ($75/hour), or $2400 for 40 hours ($60/hour)
  • Tutor qualifications: top 1% scorers from top schools

What we like:

  • Tutors are top 1% scorers and from top schools
  • Reasonable pricing

What we don’t like:

  • New company with young leadership, with less experience
  • No specific option to work with more experienced tutors who have graduated college

#11 – Parker Academics

Our Verdict — Higher Rates for Outdated SAT Tutoring 

Price: $200/hour

Based in New York City, Parker Academics is a high-end tutoring service offering online PSAT test prep. Like PrepMaven and Elite Ivy Tutors, their tutors are graduates of Ivy-League institutions, but their fees are higher.

We noted that their materials online for the SAT and PSAT are outdated, and appear as if they were created shortly after the last significant change to the tests in 2016. However, the SAT and PSAT are about to undergo a major change in 2024, so it’s especially important to work with a tutoring service that’s aware of the latest updates to the tests.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $200/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League graduates

What we like:

  • Tutors are Ivy grads

What we don’t like:

  • More expensive than other options for comparable quality
  • Website is not up-to-date

#12 – LA Tutors

Our Verdict — Higher Rates for Less-Qualified Tutors

Price: $145–185/hour

Based in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, LA Tutors is a larger tutoring company. They offer limited “guaranteed results” for students who complete all tutoring sessions and homework, and take the SAT within a certain specified timeframe. It’s unclear how this guarantee applies to PSAT students.

Their prices are on the higher side, but their tutors are not necessarily top scorers on the SAT themselves or graduates of elite universities.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $145–185/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: college graduates

What we like:

  • Good insights on their blog about college admissions and testing

What we don’t like:

  • Tutors are mostly not from Ivy-Plus schools—tutors are primarily college graduates but not from the most elite institutions
  • Fees are high given the credentials of the tutors

#13 – Elite Ivy Tutors

Our Verdict — Pricey Service with Long Sessions

Price: $200–300/hour

Elite Ivy Tutors (EIT) is a small team offering tutoring from Ivy-League graduates. However, they do not publish crucial information about pricing and tutoring logistics, and we found them to be slow to respond to client emails.

Unique among the tutoring services we researched, EIT schedules sessions that are two or three hours long, rather than sixty or ninety minutes long. This length of time can be challenging for students.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $200/hour, or $300/hour to work directly with the company founder
  • Tutor qualifications: Ivy-League graduates

What we like:

  • Tutors are Ivy grads

What we don’t like:

  • Website is confusing and lacks information
  • Long tutoring sessions of two or three hours at a time can be challenging for students
  • Higher prices than other tutoring services that also offer the chance to work with Ivy-League grads

#14 – Summit Prep

Our Verdict — Less-qualified Tutors

Price: $130–155/hour

Summit Prep is a tutoring and admissions counseling company located in New Jersey. The majority of their tutors are not graduates of elite institutions, yet their fees are higher than services with comparable instructors.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $155/hour (reduced to $130/hour with 50-hour package)
  • Tutor qualifications: mostly college graduates

What we like:

  • Good insights on their blog about college admissions and testing
  • Tutors are full-time instructors with more extensive training

What we don’t like:

  • Majority of tutors are not from Ivy-Plus schools — tutors are primarily college graduates but the majority of them are not from elite institutions

#15 – Varsity Tutors

Our Verdict — Uneven Quality Without Budget Pricing 

Price: $75–95/hour

A bit like Uber for tutoring, Varsity Tutors is an enormous tutoring platform offering online instruction in all academic subjects and test prep, including PSAT prep.

However, the company’s size has many downsides — most notably, very uneven quality of teaching. Tutors at Varsity can be very quickly approved and are paid lower rates than nearly any other tutoring company (just $15 for sessions that cost families $95), so it’s difficult for them to attract and retain talented instructors.

Varsity Tutors also does not provide any materials, curriculum, or training for tutoring sessions, so it’s up to individual tutors to create everything from scratch — contributing further to the unevenness of quality.

For families on a budget, we’d suggest considering the Standard Tutor option at PrepMaven (Ivy-League students starting at $79/hour), Prep Expert ($59–89/hour), or SoFlo Tutors (current students at $60–90/hour). If those options still don’t fit the budget, we’d recommend looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant (quality varies but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour).

At a glance:

  • Cost: $75–95/hour
  • Tutor qualifications: high school graduates

What we like:

  • Large number of tutors, so certain to find a tutor to fit your schedule

What we don’t like:

  • Uneven teaching quality due to lack of resources for instruction
  • No education or training requirements for tutors, along with low pay rates for instructors, means tutors are less-qualified than alternative SAT tutoring services

Duke University
Duke University

Top 75 PSAT Tutoring Services Considered

  • PrepMaven
  • Khan Academy
  • The Princeton Review
  • Kaplan
  • Prep Expert
  • PrepScholar
  • Peterson’s
  • Ivy Bound
  • College Prep Genius
  • Varsity Tutors
  • Sylvan
  • Green Test Prep
  • Higher Scores Test Prep
  • Excel Test Prep
  • Best in Class
  • CollegeVine
  • Prepare
  • College Drive
  • Love the SAT
  • Method Learning
  • SAT Blitz
  • The Answer Class
  • Trudeau Prep
  • Test Prep 4 Success
  • Private Prep
  • Manhattan Review
  • Olive Book
  • Veritas
  • Manhattan Elite Prep
  • Advantage Testing
  • New Summits
  • Parker Academics
  • LA Tutors
  • Summit Prep
  • Elite Ivy Tutors
  • Study Point
  • Huntington Learning Center
  • eTutorWorld
  • Manhattan Review
  • J & J Education
  • Boston Tutoring Services
  • Livius Prep
  • AJ Tutoring
  • Hack Your Course
  • Tiger Campus
  • Brains and Brawn
  • Bulldog Tutors
  • Denver Test Prep
  • Sexton Test Prep
  • First Choice College
  • Vint Hill Educational Services
  • Genesis Tutoring
  • Applerouth
  • Signet Education
  • Tutor Chase
  • Spires
  • Preply
  • TeacherOn
  • Socratic Summer Academy
  • MyGuru
  • Cates Tutoring
  • Kweller Prep
  • Krupnick Approach
  • Revolution Prep
  • Beyond the Test
  • Everest Tutoring
  • MathTowne
  • Gooroo
  • Bay Area Learning Center
  • McElroy Tutoring
  • Outschool
  • Leap2College
  • Tutor Corps
  • ClearPath Advantage
  • Cardinal Education
dormitory at Princeton University
Princeton University (Image Credit: Peter Dutton Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)

What is the PSAT?

Many people have heard of the SAT and the ACT, which are the two main standardized tests used to apply to colleges in the US. Both tests are accepted equally at all colleges and universities, and since there are some differences between the two, many students will try taking both to see on which test they can get a higher score.

The PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, is the “practice” SAT. Most students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year, the summer between junior and senior years, or the fall of their senior year. The PSAT, on the other hand, is taken in the fall of junior year.

(There is also the PSAT 8/9, which is a version of the test for students in eighth and ninth grades to track college readiness. The PSAT 10 is exactly the same as the PSAT/NMSQT, but it’s taken in the sophomore year and can’t be used for the National Merit program. More on that in a moment.)

There are a few key differences between the PSAT and the SAT. Whereas the SAT can be taken most months of the year, the PSAT is only offered once a year in mid-October. The PSAT is taken through the student’s school, and there’s no cost to students as fees are paid by the schools. (It’s possible for homeschooled students to sign up for the PSAT at a nearby school; families should contact the school at least four months in advance to register.)

The PSAT is a little bit shorter and a little bit easier than the SAT, but otherwise it’s the same test with the same format. The whole test lasts two hours and forty-five minutes. 

SectionLength (minutes)Number of questions
Reading6047
Writing & Language3544
Math7048

The PSAT is also scored in the same way as the SAT, but with slightly lower numbers. The two sections, Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing, are each scored on a scale from 160–760. This means that a “perfect” PSAT score is 1520. (A perfect SAT score, on the other hand, is 1600.)

Harvard University
Harvard University (Image Credit: Ryan Pflaum Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)


Does the PSAT matter?

It depends!

For the majority of students, it’s fine for the PSAT to simply be a “practice” SAT. In and of itself, the PSAT is not used for college admissions, and colleges will not see PSAT scores. 

It’s a good chance for students to get familiar with the test structure and question types they’ll see on the SAT. A PSAT score also lets students know approximately what scores they’ll achieve on the SAT at their current level of preparedness, and make test prep plans accordingly.

Taking practice tests is a cornerstone of test prep, and the PSAT is a chance to take a “practice SAT” that includes the features of a real test day—the nerves, the small distractions in the room, the official forms at the beginning of the test, and so on. That makes it a great trial run for the SAT, which is a key component of college admissions!

Students can also elect to make their PSAT scores visible to college recruiters. Students who score well will start receiving lots of college brochures in the mail, which can be fun!

However, for a small number of students, the PSAT can matter much more. This is because the PSAT is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Program gives scholarships to top students across the US, and students need to be in at least the top 3% of scorers for recognition, with competition for most awards limited to the top 1%.

For this reason, if students are typically in roughly the top 5% of whichever annual standardized tests they take through their school, it can be worth it to take the PSAT more seriously! The National Merit awards are widely known and can be a big boost for college admissions, in addition to the monetary value of the prizes.

If you’re not sure if you’re likely to be a National Merit contender, try taking a practice PSAT or practice SAT. If your initial scores are in 95th percentile or above, then yes, you should take the junior-year PSAT seriously.
Some elite prep schools (like Phillips Exeter Academy or the Hotchkiss School) also use the PSAT as an alternative to the SSAT or ISEE for admission to grades 11–12 or a postgraduate year. For students who want to spend the last year or two of high school at a prep school, it can be much more convenient to use the PSAT compared to the SSAT or ISEE, since the PSAT is so similar to the SAT and study materials are much more widely available.

Yale University
Yale University (Image Credit: John Phelan Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)


What is National Merit?

The National Merit Scholarship Program is one of the most widely-known and prestigious scholarship competitions in the US. 

Administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a private, not-for-profit organization, the National Merit Program recognizes high-achieving students across the country.

The contest begins in the fall of a student’s junior year, when they take the PSAT through their high school. Approximately 1.5 million students take the PSAT and, by doing so, enter the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

The following year (in September of their senior year), 34,000 students across the country receive a Letter of Commendation recognizing high achievement on the PSAT. These students scored in approximately the 97th or 98th percentile on the PSAT. Commended students are not eligible to continue on in the competition, but this is a great award to include in college applications, and they may be eligible for some special scholarships provided by corporate and business sponsors.

At the same time, 16,000 students are notified that they have achieved Semifinalist status. These are the very highest scorers in each state, roughly the 99th percentile of students taking the PSAT.

The 16,000 Semifinalists are then invited to submit applications for the National Merit Scholarships. These applications are a little like college applications, and include high school transcripts / GPA, extracurriculars, and an essay.

In February of their senior year, 15,000 of the Semifinalists advance to Finalist status. This is an amazing achievement, and is a definite boost on college applications!

Finally, roughly half of the Finalists are awarded scholarships and become National Merit Scholarship winners. There are three types of scholarships:

  • The 2,500 highest-achieving students are awarded a one-time prize of $2,500 directly from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
  • More scholarships are awarded by approximately 340 different corporate sponsors. In order to be eligible for one of these, typically a student has to both be a Finalist and also have a parent who is employed by one of the sponsors. The prizes range from $2,500 to $5,000 one-time or $1,000 to $10,000 annually. You can see a list of the companies here
  • Many colleges and universities will also offer a scholarship to students who are both admitted and also achieve Finalist status. Prizes range from $500 to $2,000 annually. 
National Merit diagram

Of course, these are only the scholarships that are offered via the National Merit Program. There are many other colleges that offer larger scholarships to National Merit Finalists. Schools tend to compete to see how many of the National Merit Finalists they can attract, and some will even offer full-ride scholarships or guaranteed admission to National Merit students.

Some schools offering full-ride scholarships to National Merit students include:

  • University of Texas at Dallas — in addition to free tuition, UT Dallas also gives National Merit students room and board, a $4,000 per semester stipend, and a one-time $6,000 stipend for international study
  • Florida International University — their international business program is ranked #2 in the nation
  • University of Alabama — full tuition for five years for undergraduate and graduate studies, four years of on-campus housing, a $3,500 annual stipend for four years, $2,000 for summer research or international study, and $2000 book scholarship
  • University of Oklahoma — full tuition for five years (undergraduate and graduate), $5,500 freshman housing scholarship, $5,500 annually for fees, books, room and board, $5,000 cash stipend, $1,000 technology and textbook stipend, $1,000 research and study abroad stipend
  • Fordham University
  • University of Maine
  • Oklahoma State University — they offer free tuition for five years, a $5,500-per-year scholarship for room and board, and $19,000 in additional scholarships
  • University of South Florida
  • Washington State University
  • University of New Mexico

In short, for high-achieving students there can be a lot of money on the line with the PSAT! And while schools like Harvard or Stanford might not offer scholarship money for National Merit (in fact, there are no merit scholarships at Harvard and the other Ivies), it will definitely help with admissions.

That’s why we advise students in the 95th percentile and above to take it seriously. If that might apply to you, set up a free test prep consultation with our team.

National Merit piechart

Read more details about the competition directly from the National Merit Program here.


What’s a good score on the PSAT?

The definition of a “good” PSAT score is subjective, really.

Each section on the PSAT is scored on a scale from 160–760. This means that a “perfect” PSAT score is 1520: 760 Math and 760 Evidence-Based Reading & Writing, are each scored 

The College Board has set “benchmarks” to college readiness for each of their tests. For the PSAT/NMSQT, those numbers are 460 for Reading & Writing and 510 for Math. Students need to hit those benchmarks in order to be “ready” for college.

According to 2020–21 data, the average PSAT score in the US is slightly higher than those benchmarks, or 1010 (source). 

The cutoff score for National Merit Commended status varies each year, but generally students need to score about 1400.

(Note: the National Merit Scholarship Corporation compares your PSAT scores with those of other students in your state using its own Selection Index, which falls on a scale between 48 and 228. This is calculated by adding each of the three section scores (Math, Reading, and Writing) together and then multiplying by 2. The upshot of this is that your Math score counts less in the eyes of National Merit than it does for your straight-up PSAT or SAT score, where your Reading and Writing scores are averaged. Yes, we know it’s confusing. We’re going to just talk about PSAT scores here, but read here for more about the Selection Index cutoff scores for each state.)

The cutoff score for National Merit Semifinalist status depends on the state. To be competitive for National Merit Semifinalist status, students need to score about 1400 on the PSAT in less competitive states like Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota . . . or about 1470 on the PSAT in more competitive states like Connecticut or New Jersey.

Furthermore, a PSAT score is a good predictor of a student’s SAT score if they don’t do any further studying or preparation.

In order to be a competitive applicant for the Ivy League, students will need SAT scores of at least 1450: higher than 730 Math and higher than 710 Reading & Writing.

If we broaden that list to the top 50 colleges and universities in the US, students need SAT scores of 1390 (700 Math and 690 Reading & Writing) to be competitive.

Learn more about average SAT scores at different schools here.

If your PSAT score still falls below those cutoff scores, don’t worry! It’s absolutely possible to raise your scores through studying and practice. We find that most of our students see a score raise of 100–300 points on the PSAT and SAT after working with our tutors.

Princeton University
Princeton University (Image Credit: James Loesch Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)


Why work with a PSAT tutor?

Remember, the PSAT is nearly the same as the SAT, so any prep for the PSAT also prepares students for the SAT.

You may want to consider working with a PSAT tutor if:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to prepare for the PSAT and SAT
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different SAT prep books and materials and don’t know which to choose
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You’re not sure how to track your progress
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies
  • You want more individualized attention than you’d get in a prep class with other students
  • You want to learn efficiently, with each lesson tailored to your exact needs
  • You’re a high scorer who would be bored in a general prep class
  • You’re a lower scorer who would benefit from more focused help
  • You have specific gaps in your knowledge (e.g. missed a few months of geometry due to Covid, an injury, a family move, etc.) and need a tutor to teach this material

With our PSAT and SAT students, we typically see students increase their scores by about 100–300 points after working with a tutor. This can have a significant impact on college admissions.

University of Chicago
University of Chicago


What makes a good PSAT tutor?

Like with any other test, it’s possible to improve your performance on the PSAT and SAT with the right practice and preparation.

However, specific preparation for the PSAT and SAT is usually not taught in schools, so students and families are on their own preparing for it.

Guidance with PSAT and SAT prep comes in two main forms: group classes or individual tutoring. Many students combine the two, following an SAT group class with some one-on-one tutoring to focus on a tailored approach for that student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this post, though, we focused on PSAT and SAT individual tutoring.

These days, many tutoring sessions are online. This allows students to seek out the best tutor regardless of their physical location, which is great!

The most important aspect of a good PSAT tutoring experience is the teacher. Tutoring sessions should be taught by experienced instructors who know the test inside and out and have helped many other students. The instructors should be people who scored highly on the test themselves, ideally in the top 1%

Classes should begin with a diagnostic test and a detailed score report to analyze a student’s starting point.

A PSAT tutor can introduce the test format and de-mystify the test for students and families. A good tutor will make sure that students are using the best available resources for studying and practice.

Princeton University
Princeton University

Especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have had interruptions in their education, resulting in knowledge gaps that can cause difficulties on the SAT and for years to come. 

A perceptive tutor will find these gaps and help to fill them by teaching whatever material a student needs. Working one-on-one is unparalleled in its efficacy for remedying these interruptions in a student’s learning, since a tutor can notice these gaps much more easily than a teacher with a classroom full of students.

Whatever students are struggling with, a good tutor will spot those skill gaps and teach that material in an encouraging way.

Managing test preparation and studying can also be stressful for family dynamics. Working with a tutor means that parents don’t have to be involved directly — the tutor can be the one to assign homework, establish holistic studying schedules, and track progress.

A good PSAT tutor takes a lot of the stress out of the PSAT process and makes sure students are practicing effectively. Tutors can provide students with study materials and guide students in using them correctly

Thorough PSAT tutors can also help students to make a holistic study plan and keep them on track, so that parents don’t have to be involved directly. 

Effective PSAT tutors will assign structured homework so that students can practice constructively with official test questions. There are a very limited number of official practice tests, so it’s important to make the most of them! 

Good PSAT tutors will help students work through missed problems and answer students’ questions.

In addition, there are many strategies and tricks that can make the test easier. Unlike some self-directed courses and books, a good PSAT tutor can share these tricks with students and guide them through implementing test strategies.

Finally, a great PSAT tutor will be a cheerleader for the student. An experienced PSAT tutor can help students to learn ways to manage test anxiety and learn key study strategies — both of which will be super valuable for the rest of their academic careers and beyond. 

A great PSAT tutor will encourage their students and leave them feeling confident and ready for the PSAT!

Stanford University
Stanford University


Summary

Best overall: PrepMaven’s one-on-one PSAT tutoring is the best out there both in terms of tutor quality and price. Starting at just $79/hour, students can work with current undergraduates at Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy-League universities to prepare for the PSAT and SAT. Families can also work with experienced, professional educators and Ivy-League graduates at $149/hour. As a boutique tutoring service, PrepMaven offers careful attention to each student and boasts amazing customer reviews.

Best of the big companies: The Princeton Review (no connection to Princeton University) is one of the biggest and most well-known companies. Their tutoring is pricey, but a solid option. Instructors go through a more extensive training process than at many other competitors, but there’s no requirement for instructors to be graduates of top schools or high scorers themselves.

Best on a budget: For families on a tighter budget, we’d suggest looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant. It’s a tutoring marketplace platform, so the quality varies hugely and there’s no oversight or qualification requirements, but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour.

However, in our experience a good tutor can accomplish more with a student in one hour than an average tutor can do in five hours. With that in mind, it might be more effective to combine free resources like Khan Academy and the free practice materials available from the College Board with a few hours of high-quality tutoring.

Best self-guided: For self-guided online PSAT practice, the SAT prep materials from Khan Academy are definitely worth checking out. This online educational platform is completely free and is the only service to partner directly with the College Board, the makers of the PSAT and SAT. For students with enough self-discipline to stick to a study schedule, Khan Academy can be a powerful tool. We don’t recommend paying for self-guided video courses unless students have already exhausted the resources available for free from Khan Academy and the College Board.

Cornell University
Cornell University (Image Credit: Maeshima Hiroki Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Next steps

Ready to begin PSAT tutoring? Schedule a free test prep consultation with Jessica (Director of Tutoring) or one of our founders to see what would be the best fit for your family.

It’s always best to start early and not wait until the last minute to prepare for the PSAT and SAT! Remember that test scores can be used to earn scholarships as well as college admission, so a few months of study now can pay off with up to $300,000 in tuition saved later. 

High-achieving students in particular will want to take the PSAT seriously, as it offers another opportunity to win big scholarship money through the National Merit program.

To start one-on-one PSAT or SAT tutoring today, set up a quick free consultation with our team.


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Emily

Emily graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and holds an MA from the University of Notre Dame. She was a National Merit Scholar and has won numerous academic prizes and fellowships. A veteran of the publishing industry, she has helped professors at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton revise their books and articles. Over the last decade, Emily has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.