The PSAT is now available in two different versions: the PSAT 10 for high school Sophomores and the PSAT/NMSQT for Juniors. Both exams were created by the College Board® to measure a student's readiness for the SAT Reasoning Test™ by focusing on the application of academic skills rather than memorized facts. Both tests are also structured the same except for two main differences. First, the PSAT 10 is designed for sophomores while the PSAT/NMSQT is designed juniors, meaning the PSAT 10 is a little easier. Second, the PSAT/NMSQT is used by the National Merit Scholarship program to qualify for scholarships and recognition, for which only juniors can qualify. Sophomores can take the PSAT/NMSQT but they will not qualify for the National Merit competition.
The PSAT is offered only once per academic year. The PSAT 10 is given on a date chosen by individual high schools, usually in late February or early March. The PSAT/NMSQT is administered in October.
Both exams are two hours and 45 minutes long.
Both exams cost $15, but many high schools cover some or all of the cost to encourage students to take the exam. Fee waivers are also avaiable for low-income students who meet certain income requirements. Contact the guidance department at your school for more information, as the College Board grants these waivers directly to the school rather than to individual students.
Both exams are offered to students at their own high school, sometimes during the school day. Home-schooled students can find a testing location by calling their nearest public school or using an online search for testing centers.
Registration for either exam is done through each school's guidance department. Online registration is not available. On the day of the test, students must have a valid, government-issued photo ID or a notarized alternative ID.
What Is On the PSAT
Both exams consist of three sections:
- The Evidence-Based Reading Test
- The Writing and Language Test
- The Math Test
Unlike the SAT Reasoning Test, there is no optional essay section on the PSAT.
How the PSAT Is Scored
Similar to the SAT Reasoning Test both exams are scored using the 200-800 point scoring system, but with lower numbers. Each of the two section scores (one for Math, the other for Evidence-Based Reading, Writing and Language) ranges from 160-760; when added together, total test scores range from 320-1520. The score report also includes cross-test scores that show achievement in science and social studies as well as sub-scores that break down achievement in specific math and language arts skills. This information is designed to help students prepare more efficiently for the SAT Reasoning Test by showing individual strengths and weaknesses.
As on the standard SAT Reasoning Test, there are no penalties for leaving a question blank, and both exams have done away with past penalties for incorrect answers. This means that students are now encouraged to guess rather than leaving any answers blank.
Retaking the PSAT
Most students do not retake either PSAT exams, though they may choose to take the PSAT 10 and then try the PSAT/NMSQT. It is not possible to retake the PSAT/NMSQT to improve your score for scholarship consideration. PSAT scores are not shared with colleges and universities; rather, they are used by schools and families to better prepare students for the standard SAT Reasoning Test.