Last Updated: November 26, 2023
What is PSAT?
PSAT means Preliminary SAT, which checks the understanding of subjects and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the students in the U.S. It is according to the grades achieved in this test that students can measure the prospect of appearing for the official SAT exam and find whether they have the expertise required for higher studies in colleges/ universities. It is also known as the PSAT/NMSQT where NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Primarily, it is a precursor to the SAT and has two sections that include the Math section and the Reading and Writing section.
The test is conducted by the College Board of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) and a student may take PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or PSAT 8/9 depending on their grade level. 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 given and what courses of action the student might be able to take in order to crack the test with decent marks. The test, though, does not influence a student's university admission.
Digital access to PSAT is available as of autumn 2023. While there will be several changes that will benefit both educators and students as a result of the shift to digital testing, many significant aspects of the SAT and PSAT-related exams have not changed.
Types of PSAT
There are three types of PSAT. These are as follows:
- PSAT 8/9-The 8th and 9th-grade¬ students can take the PSAT 8/9, the first test in the College Board's "SAT Suite of Assessments". The test has a score range of 240‚Ä"1440. The content of the test is similar to the SAT but easier.
- PSAT 10-PSAT 10 is a practice SAT exam that was introduced for the academic year 2015‚Ä"16. The PSAT 10 is intended exclusively for sophomores in high school, in contrast to the SAT, which is intended for juniors and seniors. Its questions are thus easier than those on the SAT. Because it corresponds with the SAT, it shares sections for the Math section and the Reading and Writing section. The total¬ range of scores is 320‚Ä"1520.
- PSAT-The College Board administers the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), also known as the PSAT, to US students in grades 10 and 11, with the goal of preparing them for the SAT and helping them obtain a National Merit Scholarship.
Who Can Apply for PSAT?
The PSAT test is generally taken by 10th or 11th graders who wish to eventually take the SAT examination. Though the exam can provide experience for SAT aspirants, it is mostly taken by students who wish to receive the National Merit Scholarship which is based on the marks one receives for the PSAT examination.
Eligibility Requirements for PSAT
Undergraduate students can apply for the PSAT. Students can take the test once a year. Most prefer to take the test in their 10th and 11th-grade levels since earning a relatively high score in the junior year makes one qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. The primary reasons for opting for the tests are generally as follows-
- To gain insights and feedback about areas where the student can show improvement. This enables the student to work on their weak areas and prepare to avail admission to a college of their choice.
- To compete for scholarships from NMSC.
- To get an idea of what to expect for the official SAT exam and how to approach the SAT effectively.
Cost of Taking PSAT
PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT cost $18 each, while PSAT 8/9 cost $14 each. The PSAT cost is to be paid to the school that conducts the test to complete the registration process for the test. Sometimes the schools might cover part of the cost that the student has to pay which will result in a relatively low amount. Some other schools might charge additional amounts for administering the test on their premises. Kindly contact one‚Äôs school for further information regarding the same. The fee waiver facility is also available for 11th-grade students who are from low-income families. However, this has to be sought after by the student through the counselor or the administrative departments within the school.
How to Register/Apply for PSAT?
Students who wish to take the PSAT test will have to enquire whether the institution they are studying in provides the PSAT test. If their school does not provide the PSAT, they will have to persuade the administration to register for the same to take the test. If their institution provides the test, they will be able to find the PSAT Registration Deadline and Test Date from the administration of the institution.
Now, candidates will also have the option of signing up for the test by paying the fee for PSAT test books. Some institutions charge an additional fee for administering the test.
Test Dates for PSAT
The PSAT test is administered by the institution in which the student is studying and not the College Board. The test is generally offered by institutions on a date mostly in October which is convenient for them. The dates are generally termed primary test day, Saturday test day, and alternate test day.
Syllabus and Test Structure for PSAT
The test which is conducted within 2 hours (including breaks) has a total of 2 sections namely the Reading and Writing Section and the Math Section. This structure is exactly similar to that of SAT giving the student an exact idea of how the official test works.
- Reading and Writing Section- The goal of the digital PSAT's Reading and Writing section is to assess students' progress in developing the literacy skills necessary for a college education and a successful career. Students will respond to multiple-choice questions in this section that test their ability to read, understand, and apply concepts and information found in texts; to evaluate the composition and organization of texts; and to edit texts to enhance their rhetorical expression.
- Math Section- The purpose of the math portion of the digital PSAT is to assess students' progress in acquiring essential math knowledge and skills for college and careers. It emphasizes geometry and trigonometry, advanced math, problem-solving and data analysis, and essential components of algebra. Throughout the Math section, students will respond to both multiple-choice and student-produced response questions designed to assess their proficiency with, comprehension of, and application of the most crucial math concepts, skills, and practices.
Test Duration for PSAT
The total time allotted for the test is 2 hours and 14 minutes excluding 10 minute break. Each section has a specific time stipulated within which the section ought to be completed. This depends on the number of questions each section contains and the weightage of marks for the problems in question.
There are 54 questions in the Reading and Writing section, split equally between the two modules. Students have 32 minutes to respond to the questions in each module.
There are 44 questions in the Math section, split equally between two modules. Each module's questions must be answered by students within 35 minutes.
Calculate PSAT Score
PSAT Scoring is extremely similar to SAT scores. Since there is no negative marking every correct answer adds up to the candidate‚Äôs raw score. This is exactly why guessing is promoted instead of leaving unattended questions. The raw score gets converted into a scaled score which will range between 160 to a maximum of 760 in every section.
Understand PSAT score
The composite score will be calculated as a combination of both these scaled scores and will be somewhere between 320 and 1520. They will also add two percentile ranks which compares them to the other test-takers during the same year. The percentile demarcating one‚Äôs score will imply that they have performed better than that particular percent of test-takers. For instance, if the percentile awarded is 65%, it implies that the candidate has outperformed 65% of people who have taken the test along with them.
The scaled scores will be accompanied by test scores, cross-test scores, and subscores. Here, the test scores will be between 8 and 38 depending on the performance in the Reading, Writing, and Language sections. It is this score that will be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The cross-test scores stand for the score the candidate achieves for analyzing skills in both Social Science and Science. This will also range from 8 to 38. The subscores will depend on the candidate‚Äôs language prowess and knowledge of Mathematics. This will be graded between 1 to 15.
Since the PSAT is mostly taken by students who wish to receive the National Merit Scholarship, students generally take it just once in their 11th grade. However, students who wish to retake the test will be able to do so three times in total as long as they take it only once a year.
Preparing for PSAT
Students can do several practice tests to get the experience of a PSAT test and to check their understanding. They can use sample test papers from the previous year's 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.
Students can also prepare for PSAT/NMSQT and /PSAT 10 by taking up challenging courses, focusing on following tests and quizzes, and being curious about key concepts enough to ask the right questions. Things that are very basic like doing one‚Äôs homework on time will also benefit aspirants of the PSAT.
PSAT and NMSQT U.S. test takers, aged 13 and up, will be able to view their results, as well as personalized career information and advice on how to plan and budget for college, via the BigFuture School smartphone app. Students can choose to hear directly from nonprofit colleges and scholarship programs that might be a good fit through the BigFuture School app's Connections feature, all without having to divulge any personal information.
PSAT Test Day Essentials
Prior to downloading the Bluebook testing application, students must ascertain which device they will be using for the digital PSAT, as well as any technical specifications or requirements. Students can use an iPad, a Mac laptop, a Windows laptop or tablet, or a Chromebook that is managed by the school to use Bluebook. It cannot be used on a mobile device.
One to five days before the test, students will finish a brief exam setup. After verifying that the device satisfies all requirements, the application will download the students' test and produce their admission tickets.
Apart from their testing devices, other things students should bring on the test day are as follows:
- An electronic or printed copy of their admission ticket for the digital SAT (given to them after they've finished exam setup).
- Acceptable photo ID.
- A fully charged personal testing device or a school-owned Chromebook that has been configured for an exam. On test day, students who have borrowed a device from the College Board will pick it up at the testing location.
- A power cord and/or a portable charger.
- An external mouse or keyboard, if candidates use one.
- Pens or pencils for makeshift work.
- An approved calculator to utilize in the math portion of the test.
- If a student requires an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen), they may bring them in a clear plastic bag.
- An authorized picture ID in the event that the candidate is homeschooled or takes the test at a different school than their regular one.
Tips to Crack PSAT
- Try answering the easy questions first. Students can attempt the easier questions before striving for the difficult ones.
- It is crucial to read the instructions carefully and to follow all the directions.
- Check the attempted answers. Make sure the writing is legible as the test is machine-scored. In case one is hesitant about certain multiple-choice questions, make an educated guess.
- Most importantly, practice! Practice is a must to crack a PSAT test with decent marks.
Strategize smartly on how to finish the test on time, so that one will also have some time to go through the answers and check for mistakes. Remember - 218 is the average cut-off mark for entering the NMSC competition and giving one‚Äôs best to achieve over and beyond 218 (the cut-off varies for each state. These tips and strategies despite sounding common-sensical will aid one immensely in cracking the PSAT.