What is the PSAT?
How to Obtain a Scholarship
The Preliminary SAT, also known as the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), is a preparatory version of the SAT exam. Students can only take the PSAT once per year, and most students take the test in both 10th and 11th grade. I know what you’re thinking, as if students don’t already have enough stress having to prepare for the SAT. So, what makes the PSAT different from the SAT? If students earn a high score on the PSAT on their junior year, they could qualify to receive a National Merit Scholarship. Who doesn’t love free money for education? Although, the PSAT is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship, it won’t count toward students’ college admissions applications.
Why Do Students take the PSAT?
- One of the most common reasons students, especially juniors, take the PSAT is to familiarize themselves with the layout and content of the SAT.
- Another major reason students take the PSAT is to try to win a National Merit Scholarship.
- Students also take the PSAT to practice for the PSAT as sophomores before taking it again as juniors.
What is on the PSAT?
The PSAT is similar to the SAT in both form and content. There are three sections to the PSAT: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. The reading test focuses on the skills and knowledge: the material students have been learning in high school and the stuff students need to succeed in college. There are passages, multiple choices questions to the passages, informational graphics, etc. The writing and language test consists of reading, finding mistakes and weaknesses, and fixing them. The questions on the math test are designed to mirror the problem solving and modeling students do in college math, science, and social science courses, as well as jobs that students will hold and personal life.
How is the PSAT Scored?
The total PSAT score range is 320-1520 in 10-point increments. The score comprises a Math score and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score, both on scales of 160-760. Evidence-Based Reading is a combination of the reading and writing sections. A good PSAT score for students depends on what their PSAT goals are. If a student is hoping to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, they’ll need to get a score that will place them in the top 1 percent of test takers in their state.
The Connection between the PSAT and SAT
The PSAT’s primary purposes is to act as a precursor to the SAT, it serves as an SAT practice test. The PSAT and SAT mirror each other, but are not identical. They have a few differences, such as the SAT containing an optional essay section, the PSAT doesn’t, the PSAT is easier than the SAT, and there are fewer questions on the PSAT than there are on the SAT.
Preparing for the PSAT
- The easiest and most fundamental way to prepare for the PSAT is learn the format of the test.
- Set a PSAT goal score, it can help you determine what PSAT score to aim for on the day of the test.
- Prepare by taking an official PSAT practice test. Practice test are the best resources available because you’re getting authentic PSAT questions wrapped up in a complete test-taking experience.
- When studying, go through your practice test and try to figure out where your logic went wrong on the questions you answered incorrectly.
- Find free SAT resources, with questions nearly identical to those on the PSAT, to study from.
- Hire a PSAT tutor who can shed some much needed light on critical concepts and skills you need to work on in order to get the score you want.