Why Take The PSAT?

The PSAT is an acronym for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.  Thus, it is designed to help students practice for the actual SAT I by simulating actual SAT I conditions and using questions similar in format to those found on the SAT I.  The PSAT also enhances student familiarity with the SAT I format, since the directions for most of the PSAT questions do not differ from those found on the SAT I.  The PSAT is also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).  Juniors who earn a competitive score (which varies from year to year) on the PSAT may qualify for National Merit Scholarships—a prestigious honor! 

In terms of format, the PSAT is similar to the SAT I; however, the PSAT includes less material than the SAT I, and takes less time to complete.  While the SAT I takes a total of 225 minutes of test time, the PSAT features 130 minutes of actual test time.

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Critical Reading
Like the SAT I, the PSAT Critical Reading is comprised of two portions: sentence completions and reading comprehension.  Critical reading is divided into two 25-minute sections with a combined total of 48 questions.  Of the PSAT’s three sections, critical reading is the most similar to that found on the SAT I.

Math is also divided into two 25-minute sections, but features only 38 questions.  Of these, 10 are “grid-in,” in which students must come up with their own answer (also known as ‘free response’), and the remainder are multiple choice.  The PSAT math section differs from that on the SAT I in that, while most of the tested concepts remain the same, the range of material covered is reduced.  Namely, concepts from algebra 2, which normally appear on the SAT I, do NOT appear on the PSAT.

Students may be relieved to know that the PSAT does not include an essay; thus, the PSAT writing shows the greatest difference in format from the SAT.  This writing section is completely multiple-choice, and focuses on improving sentences and paragraphs, as well as identifying sentence errors.  Thus, PSAT writing is designed to help students practice for all sections of the SAT except for the essay.