graduateshotline logo - Home


The PSAT is the Preliminary SAT, which checks the US student's understanding of subjects and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses as per the expertise required for higher studies in colleges. Primarily, it is a precursor to the SAT 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.

PSAT - Eligibility

Undergraduate students can apply.Primary reasons for opting for these tests can be -

Test Structure - the 3 sections of the PSAT are as follows

  • Writing skill checks the student's 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 learned 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 45 minutes. Here is the lowdown of the time, i.e., how the time is divided among three sections
    • Critical reading - 60 mins ; comprises of 47 questions.
    • Math - 70 mins with a total of 48 questions.
    • Writing and Language - 1 section worth 35 mins; comprises of 44 questions

    Test dates-

    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 2018 dates are as follows -
    • Primary, Oct. 10th
    • Saturday, Oct. 13th
    • Alternate, Oct. 24th

    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 2018 deadline dates-

    For fee waiver services and other services, the below link can be accessed -

    PSAT test fees

    The cost of the test is 16$. The PSAT cost is to be paid to the school which conducts the test to complete the registration process for the test. Sometimes the school might impose additional PSAT costs as a part of the registration procedure. Schools outside of the USA, an extra 3$ is charged for delivery of the textbooks 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 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. They can also set a timetable and schedule 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 needed to be very thorough and focused 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 read the instructions carefully 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 - 218 is the average cut-off marks for entering the NMSC competition and give your best to achieve over and beyond 218 (cut off varies for each state). Following the above tips might help you to achieve a good score.

  • Recommended Reading