The PSAT is the preliminary SAT test, which checks the US students’ understanding of subjects and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as per the expertise required for higher studies in colleges. Primarily, it is a precursor to the SAT test and has three sections that include maths, Critical reading and Writing skills. The test is conducted by the College Board the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). Students who take the tests can qualify for scholarships as per their scores. The test is very effective for students and a good number of practice sessions help in determining how the test can be and what course of actions students might take to crack the test with good marks. The test though does not influence a student’s university admission.
To sum it up, the test is a qualifying exam for scholarships as well as is the prelims for the SAT test.
Undergraduate students can apply.Primary reasons for opting for these tests can be –
- To gain some insights and feedback on areas of improvement. This enables the students to work on their key areas and prepare for the desired field of interest.
- To compete for scholarships from NMSC.
- As mentioned above, to get a feel of SAT exam and how to approach the SAT effectively. PSAT forms the exact platform in this regard.
- Get an insight of how you perform on an admission test vis a vis to the others applying for college.
Test Structure- the 3 sections of the PSAT are as follows –
- Writing skill checks the students' understanding of the language and students are evaluated on their usage, structures, grammar, continuity etc. Students might be asked to determine erroneous sentences and point out the mistakes in the sentence structures, if any. Students are also required to find alternate word/phrases instead of a portion of a sentence. There are paragraphs too which, once the students have read, are to be modified/corrected as per the standard English comprehension rules.
- Critical reading checks the way students comprehend the passages and how perfectly they interpret the essence of the sentences /paragraphs. Students may read a passage, understand it and then provide answers to the related questions. It helps if the students have a good vocabulary and writing skills here.
- Maths is the 3rd section which checks the basic application of maths that students have learnt in school. Topics like geometry, measurement, data analysis, statistics, algebra and probability are mostly asked. There are multiple choice questions which involve picking the right answer from the options and grid-in questions where students solve the maths questions and write their answers.
Test duration –
The total time allotted for the test is two hours and 10 minutes. Here is the lowdown of the time i.e. how the time is divided among 3 sections -
Critical reading – contains 2 sections of 25 mins each; comprises of 48 questions.
Math – contains 2 sections of 25 mins each with total of 38 questions.
Writing –1 section worth 30 mins; comprises of 39 questions
The PSAT exams are held twice in a year by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC. It provides the undergraduate students with scholarship opportunities. The exam usually is conducted in October every year.
The PSAT 2012 dates are as follows –
- October 17, 2012, Wednesday.
- October 20, 2012, Saturday.
Candidates can select one of the above dates to sit for the PSAT. PSAT cannot be applied online. Interested candidates have to find the schools in their area which conducts PSAT and inquire about applications and the procedures. After the application gets processed and confirmed, the test materials would be sent to the High School from where the candidate has applied for the test. It is advisable to start the application process well in advance.
Candidates can visit the below link to know more about the PSAT 2012 deadline dates-
For fee waiver services and other services, the below link can be accessed –
PSAT test fees –
The cost of the test is 14$. The PSAT cost is to be paid to the school which conducts the test to complete the registration process for the test. Sometimes the school might impose additional PSAT costs as a part of the registration procedure. Schools outside of the USA, an extra 3$ is charged for delivery of the text books and manuals. The fee waiver facility is also available for 11th grade students and low income families. The PSAT fee covers various administrative costs and other expenditures.
Preparation for PSAT- tips-
Students can do several practice tests to get the experience of a PSATA test and to check their understanding. They can use sample test papers from the previous years’ test, prep books or tutorial courses. “The Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT “is considered to be the best source to practice for this test. They can also set a timetable and strategize their routine accordingly for the test. They should also try to be familiar with the test pattern and how to encounter certain sections. Expert advice also comes in handy. Apart from everything, students need to be very thorough and focussed on the preparation.
How to crack PSAT- few tips –
- Try answering the easy questions first. Students can attempt the easier questions before striving for the difficult ones.
- It is crucial to carefully read the instructions and to follow all the directions.
- Check your answers. Make sure the writing is legible as the test is machine scored. In case you are hesitant of certain multiple choice questions, make an educated guess if required.
- Most importantly, practice! Practice is a must to crack a PSAT test with good marks.
Strategize smartly on how to finish the test on time, so that you also have some time to go through the answers and check for mistakes. Remember –201 is the average cut-off marks for entering the NMSC competition and give your best to achieve over and beyond 201. Following the above tips might help you to achieve a good score.