Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the PSAT Test


What is the PSAT/NMSQT

The PSAT/NMSQT is a standardized test designed to measure your ability to do college work. The PSAT test is given once a year, in mid October. Most schools administer the exam on a Saturday; some, however give it on a Tuesday.


While some high schools recommend that their students take the test "for practice" as sophomores, most students take it only once, in the beginning of their junior year.
Click here to see the next PSAT test date



How does the new PSAT differ from the old PSAT?

It's less quirky. The old PSAT featured problems that were unlike anything you ever faced in the classroom: analogies, for example (FURNACE:HEAT::lamp:light), and quantitative comparison questions. Those questions are gone. You don't have to worry about them any more.
It's more realistic. Reading, writing, arithmetic: these are the skills the new test emphasizes, skills you've been taught in the classroom for years. Your task is to apply these skills to this new multiple-choice examination.



What is the format of the PSAT test?

The PSAT test consists of five sections:

  • two 25 minute sections testing critical reading skills
  • two 25 minute sections testing mathematical skills
  • one 30 minute section testing writing skills

The critical reading sections of the PSAT test consist of 50 questions to be answered in 50 minutes. A typical test is made up of:

  • 14 sentence completion questions
  • 10 short-paragraph critical reading questions
  • 26 long-paragraph critical reading questions (14 single passages plus 12 paired passages)
There are two types of questions on the mathematics portion of the PSAT test:
  • 30 multiple-choice questions
  • 10 grid-in questions where the answers to the questions are entered in a special grid

The writing skills section of the PSAT test consists of 39 questions to be answered in 30 minutes.
A typical test is made up of:

  • 19 identifying sentence errors questions
  • 14 improving sentence questions
  • 6 improving paragraph questions

Why is the test call the PSAT/NMSQT

This preliminary SAT is also the qualifying test for the scholarship competitions conducted by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). NMSC has been cosponsoring this test since 1971. For more information about National Merit Scholarship programs visit:
www.nationalmerit.org


How can the PSAT test help me?

If you are a high school junior, it will help you gauge your potential score on the SAT and the Writing SAT II that you will take in the spring. It will give you some idea of which colleges you should apply to in your senior year. It will give you access to scholarship competitions. It will definitely give you practice in answering multiple choice questions where timing is an important factor.
In addition, you may choose to take advantage of the College Board's Student Search Service. This service is free for students who fill out the biographical section of the PSAT/NMSQT. If you fill out this section, you will receive mail from colleges and search programs.


How do I apply for the PSAT test?

You apply to the PSAT test through your school. Fees, when required, are collected by your school. Fee waivers are available for students whose families cannot afford the test fee; if this applies to you, talk to your counselor.
The PSAT test is given in October. In December the results are sent to your school and to the scholarship program that you indicated on your answer sheet in the examination room.


What makes the PSAT test different from other tests?

The PSAT test is trying to measure your ability to reason using facts that are part of your general knowledge or facts that are included in your test booklet. You are not required to recall any history or literature or science. You are not required to recall most math formulas - they are printed right in the test booklet.
Your score depends upon how many correct answers you get within a definite period of time. You can't go too slowly; however, accuracy is even more important than speed. You have to pace yourself so that you don't sacrifice speed to gain accuracy (or sacrifice accuracy to gain speed).
The biggest mistake most students make is to answer too many questions. It is better to answer fewer questions correctly, even if you have to leave some out at the end of a section.


How is the PSAT test different from the SAT exam?

The PSAT test is a mini-version of the SAT. For most students, it serves as a practice test. The PSAT test takes two hours and ten minutes. The SAT I takes three hours. You have to answer fewer verbal questions and math questions on the PSAT test than you do on the SAT; however the questions are on the same level of difficulty.
The PSAT test also serves as a preview of the SAT II: Subject Test in Writing. The writing skills section of the PSAT has the same kind of multiple-choice questions as the SAT II. There are just fewer of them.


How are the results of your PSAT/NMSQT reported?

About six to eight weeks after the test, you will receive, through your school, the following:

  • Report of Student Answers with your scores
  • Copy of the answers you gave
  • Copy of the correct answers
  • Selection Index, which identifies those eligible for NMSC programs
  • Copy of the original test booklet that you used in the examination room

How do I prepare for the PSAT test?

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