PSAT(also known as NMSQT) is the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is regarded as a trial run for the SAT and ACT exams and is considered to be a great primer and an important guidepost for the admission journey of college. It is a multiple-choice test taken every year by 3.4 million high school students. The PSAT scores are used to award merit scholarships by identifying the National Merit Scholars. It is a standardized test mostly taken by the 10th and 11th grade students all over the world. Every year around 7,500 11thstudents win the PSAT Scholarship.The PSAT score acts as a predictor for the SAT score. It helps the candidates to identify their weaknesses, work on them, and improve their results. Taking PSAT is not necessary for the students unless the school declares it to be a compulsory test for all. It is not that important as it does not affect one’s GPA. It is for those students who want to avail a scholarship and see their names in the list of National Merit Scholars.
PSAT: Test Format, Question Types, and Structure
The PSAT test is divided into 2 core sections:
- Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW)
- Math – 8 questions of PSAT math are grid-ins
The test evaluates the reasoning skills and the ability to decode the words’ meaning in extended contexts. It is conducted for a total time of 2 hours and 45 minutes and includes following sections:
- Reading section – 47 questions with 60 minutes of time
- Writing section – 44 questions with 35 minutes of time
- Mathematics – 47 questions with 2 sections: calculator-optional section (45 minutes) and no-calculator section(25 minutes)
Altogether there is a period of 70 minutes for the math section and 95 minutes for the evidence-based reading and writing.
The PSAT test is conducted in the schools and has three dates, which are decided by the school. The three dates given by PSAT are:
- A Primary Date
- A Saturday Date
- An Alternate Date
The exam is generally conducted in early or mid of October.
PSAT: Exam Syllabus
The syllabus includes:
- Reading and Vocabulary in Context
- Grammar and its usage
- Problem-solving and Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math
- Trigonometry, geometry, and pre-calculus
PSAT: Scoring System
The PSAT score ranges in 10 increments from 320 to 1520 marks. Each section (Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) is scored on a scale of 160-760. Firstly, a student starts off with a raw score, which is further converted to a test score by using a special equating process on a scale of 8 to 38. A raw score is defined as the number of questions answered correctly by a student. Then, the Selection Index Scores are obtained by combining and multiplying the test score by two. The National Merit Competition evaluates the students on the basis of their Selection Index Scores.
Finally, Reading and writing Scores (EBRW) are multiplied by 20 after combining them to get a score out of 760 and the Math score is increased by 20 times to get a score on a scale of 160-760.
There are subscores and cross test scoresgiven, which are similar to the SAT scores. They are an indication toward the mastery of one’s specific skills. Cross test scores range from 8 to 38 and subscores range from 1 to 15.
The subscores are divided into 7 categories:
- Commands of Evidence
- Expression of Ideas
- Standard English Conventions
- Words in Context
- Passport to Advanced Math
- Heart of Algebra
- Data Analysis and Problem-solving
The test cross scores are divided into 2 categories:
- Analysis in Science
- Analysis in Social Studies
There are several PSAT tutorials available on the Internet at present, one can go through them and improve their preparation. PSAT slightly differs from SAT on the scoring scale and the exam is 15 minutes shorter as it does not include an essay.
- ExamSnap Practice tests for the PSAT test are usually taken by the students to get familiarized with the content and layout of the SAT test. The SAT scores are often required for admission in college. PSAT Prep helps the individuals in identifying their strengths and weaknesses and also gives them the feel of the real SAT exam.
- PSAT helps in securing National Merit Scholarship. It is one of the major reasons why 3.4 million junior high school students take this exam. It is a competition for National Merit Distinction or Scholarship. Around 16,000 students become the semi-finalists of PSAT every year, 15,000 students become the finalists, and finally, 7,500 students win the scholarship amount of $2,500 along with a prestigious certification of National Merit Scholar.
- If taking PSAT as a sophomore, it is regarded as a practice test for the juniors before taking the National Merit Test. This test helps the student to give a bigger shot for grabbing the Merit Scholarship with higher scores.
PSAT: Exam Fee
The exam fee for PSAT varies from school to school. In most cases, it costs $16, but sometimes the schools declare the test free for the students. The fee from the candidates is at most collected by September, and the instructions of the payment mode and time are given by the schools.
There are some students who cannot afford the fees, so they can ask the school to request for the fee waiver to the College Board. The 11th graders from low-income families are eligible for fee waivers. The counselors check whether the respective ward qualifies the criteria for opting a fee waiver.