PSAT stands for Preliminary SAT®. The PSAT/NMSQT®, at its heart, is a practice version of
the SAT®, as the two tests are similar in structure and assessed content areas. The PSAT/NMSQT®
is also known at the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). The PSAT/NMSQT® has
four sections for a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the exam is scored on a 320-1520
point scale, with two subsections (combined Reading/ Writing and Language and Math) each
receiving a score from 160 to 760. The PSAT/NMSQT® does not include an essay. For juniors,
performance on the PSAT can qualify them for National Merit Scholarship consideration.
For all students, the PSAT/NMSQT® is a great opportunity to gain practice for the summative
assessments (SAT® and/or ACT®) that will appear on their college applications.
Upcoming PSAT/NMSQT® test dates:
- 10/10 (Primary test date)
- 10/13 (Saturday test date)
- 10/24 (Alternate test date)
Register for the PSAT/NMSQT® through your school
PSAT/NMSQT® High School Search
Who takes the PSAT/NMSQT®?
Juniors hoping to gain testing experience and/or potentially qualify for a
National Merit Scholarship. At many schools, sophomores (and possibly freshmen)
will also be offered the opportunity to sit for the exam, but only juniors are
eligible for scholarship consideration.
What is the National Merit Scholarship Program?
The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic scholarship competition
open to high school juniors based upon their performance on the PSAT/NMSQT® and other
academic and personal factors.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) uses the PSAT/NMSQT® Selection
Index score (double the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math test
scores, a range of 48-228), as an initial screening of program entrants and to
designate groups of students to receive recognition. The National Merit Scholarship
program is open to all high school students who meet the entry requirements. Each
year over 1.5 million high school students enter the competition:
- 34,000 students receive commendation, but not necessarily a scholarship, for
their academic potential based upon their scores. A minimum Selection Index of
approximately 220 is necessary for commendation.
- 7,600 students win a $2500 scholarship based upon their performance as compared
to other juniors in their own state and submission of supplemental application
materials. The minimum Selection Index is usually between 210 to 225, but varies
What is tested on the PSAT/NMSQT®?
There are three main academic areas that are assessed on the PSAT. In reading,
students are measured in their ability to read for main ideas, understand tone,
draw inferences, and define vocabulary in context. In math, students are assessed
in their knowledge of concepts in arithmetic, geometry, and algebra I. In writing,
students are tested in their understanding of standard grammar usage.
When do students take the PSAT/NMSQT®?
All students take the PSAT/NMSQT® on either the third Wednesday or Saturday in October.
In 2017, the PSAT/NMSQT® will be offered on Wednesday, October 11th and Saturday,
Where can I sign up to take the PSAT/NMSQT®?
Students register for the PSAT/NMSQT® through their high schools. Any questions about
registration should thus be directed to a student’s guidance/college counselor.
If a student’s school does not offer the PSAT, the student can use the
PSAT/NMSQT® High School Search Tool to find a school in the area that administers
the PSAT/NMSQT®, and then contact that school to about registration procedures.
What is the cost to take the PSAT/NMSQT®?
The regular registration fee for the PSAT/NMSQT® is $15.
How should I prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT®?
There are several ways that a student can prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT®. Students should
gain familiarity with the structure of the PSAT. The PSAT/NMSQT®, at over two hours,
is the longest test most students will take to that point in time, and being aware
of this unique challenge is important. Students should also work to further develop
the academic skills being assessed by the PSAT/NMSQT®. Understanding main ideas in a
reading passage, working with triangles, and understanding subject-verb agreement
are just a sample of the cross-curricular skills that are covered on the exam.
Students should learn the particular way in which questions are asked on the PSAT/NMSQT®.
As opposed to much of the math students experience in high school, questions on the
PSAT/NMSQT® are asked in a less-straightforward way, which means that students must be
particularly adept at identifying the core concept being assessed in a given
question. The easiest way for students to gain experience with the PSAT/NMSQT® is to
complete a full-length practice exam under conditions similar to the actual test.
This experience will provide results that can inform and focus student