The Preliminary SAT (PSAT)

The PSAT is a preliminary test to the SAT developed by the College Board. It is not only a practice test but also a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship. Students who score highly on the PSAT may receive a monetary scholarship and recognition from the National Merit Program. College admission officers do not use the PSAT when evaluating student candidates.

Instead, the PSAT is a tool for students to assess their knowledge and test-taking abilities before the SAT and ACT. While optional, high school students should still consider registering for the PSAT because it can offer insight into preparing for the SAT or ACT.

What Content Appears on the PSAT?

The PSAT includes a math section, a writing section, and an evidence-based reading. Lasting a total duration of 2 hours and 45 minutes, the PSAT is much shorter and easier than the SAT.

PSAT Math Section

The math section consists of 48 multiple-choice and “grid-in” questions in a 70-minute session. The subject matter in this section includes algebra I & II, geometry, and trigonometry.

PSAT Writing & Language Section

The writing & language test consists of 44 multiple-choice questions within 35 minutes. Students must read passages regarding arguments on careers, history, social studies, humanities, and science. The purpose is to assess the student’s skills in grammar, vocabulary-in-context, and editing.

PSAT Reading Section

For the reading section, students will have 60 minutes to answer 47 multiple-choice questions. Students must read passages regarding literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences. This tests the student’s comprehension, vocabulary-in-context, command of evidence, and analytical skills.

How is the PSAT Scored?

The College Board scores the PSAT on a scale of 320-1520. To calculate the total score, they add two overall section scores on a 160-760 scale (math and evidence-based reading & writing). Students earn points for every question answered correctly, and neither lose nor gain points for incorrect answers or skipped questions.

What is a good test score in 2021? Out of a possible 1520 points, an excellent score (10th percentile) is 1210 and above. The 25th percentile ranges from 1070 to 1200. Meanwhile, the 50th percentile of test scores ranges from 950 to 1060. A below-average score refers to anything below 950. Students use their PSAT scores to evaluate their standing amongst their peers and adjust their study plan accordingly.

When to Take the PSAT

Students take the PSAT in the spring of sophomore year or the fall of junior year. This allows students time to receive their scores and prepare to take the SAT or ACT shortly after. The College Board offers the PSAT each October for 11th graders. Meanwhile, 10th graders may take the test in February, March, or April. It’s important to note that registered students complete the PSAT at their school.

What are Qualifications for the National Merit Scholarship?

The PSAT isn’t solely used for SAT and ACT preparation; the test also unlock possible scholarship opportunities. The National Merit Program may recognize juniors who take the PSAT and grant scholarships to eligible students. The Program awards National Merit Scholarships to 7,500 students who score highly on the PSAT (less than the top 1%). These students receive up to $2,500 a year towards college. The National Merit Program recognizes students who qualify as semi-finalists and finalists for their achievement.

Preparing for the PSAT

Although the PSAT does not directly affect college admissions, students may want to prepare for the PSAT to qualify for the scholarship and be nationally recognized. TestPrepScore offers students resources for all their test-taking and college preparatory needs. Visit our list of professional tutors, admissions counselors, and test-prep services near you.