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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:

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-

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’s 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.

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’s 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’s 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’s language prowess and knowledge of Mathematics. This will be graded between 1 to 15.

Retake PSAT

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’s homework on time will also benefit aspirants of the PSAT.

BigFuture Application

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:

Tips to Crack PSAT

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’s 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.

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