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What Is The PSAT Test? – Everything You Need to Know

Dec 30, 2021

Juniors in high school have a lot on their minds, from extracurricular activities to academics to friends and the future. One of those things is cracking PSAT. But, what is the PSAT for high school students? What is the psat NMSQT test? Why is it important for juniors?

What is the PSAT?

PSAT refers to the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. The College Board administers the PSAT, a standardized test to prepare you for the SAT. It also acts as an application for the famous National Merit Scholarships. The PSAT is required in some states as a college preparation test. It also gives useful practice to identify topics where students need further improvement. But, obtaining a National Merit Scholarship is a tough task.


According to College Board data, more than 2 million students took the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 in the 2020-2021 school year. In 2022, about 7,500 high school students will be chosen to win a National Honor Scholarship or a corporate or college-sponsored merit award.

The PSAT is primarily a practice version of the SAT. But it can potentially lead to increased college funding. In addition, the top scorers on this exam are eligible for scholarships. Even being named a Commended Scholar can make your application stand out. The PSAT 8/9, PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 10 are the three versions of the test. The PSAT 10 and the PSAT-NMSQT are the same tests, although students take them at various periods of the year. As per the College Board, the PSAT 8/9 serves as a benchmark for college preparedness. The other two enable check-in on student development.


The PSAT 8/9 is a two-hour and 25-minute test for students 8 and 9. It includes 55 minutes of reading, 30 minutes of writing and language, and 15 minutes of math (60 min).

The PSAT 10 is a two-hour and 45-minute test for sophomores. The PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 are administered on dates set by schools within broad time frames. If you are wondering what is a PSAT NMSQT test, keep reading to learn more about it.


The PSAT-NMSQT is the qualifying exam for a student’s acceptance into the National Merit Scholarship contests held each year. The scholarship contest begins a two-year process when students take the test in junior year. The PSAT/NMSQT, usually scheduled in mid-October, will be held on October 12 and 15, 2022, with an alternate test day on October 25.

How can you register for PSAT?

Students are not allowed to register directly through the College Board website. Instead, high schools register students for PSAT. Many school districts pay for this test for all students. Students who are homeschooled should register with their local high school. Fee waivers are not available for the PSAT 8/9 or PSAT 10. However, they are available for the PSAT/NMSQT.


What is the PSAT NMSQT section division?

Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing are the two parts of the PSAT. You will come across passage-based questions—sometimes with tables, graphs, and charts. In addition, some math problems involving algebra, geometry, and a little trigonometry can be a part of this test.

The PSAT exam, which is referred to as a “preliminary SAT,” provides students with an understanding of the structure, question types, content, and time constraints that they will experience on the SAT. The PSAT exam also counts as a prerequisite for the National Merit Scholarship Program. 


How is the PSAT scored?

The PSAT is graded in two sections: evidence-based reading and writing and math in all variants. Score ranges vary in every PSAT version. For example, the scoring range for the PSAT 8/9 is 240-1440. The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT have a somewhat greater range of 320-1520. The combined scores from the reading and writing sections and the math component are used to compute the score on all three examinations.

The College Board has created criteria for all editions of the PSAT. Students in the eighth grade should score a 390 on the reading and writing exam and a 430 on the math component on the PSAT 8/9. Students in the ninth grade should achieve 410 in reading and writing and 450 in math on the same test. According to the College Board, these grades “predict a 75% chance of receiving a C or above in comparable courses.” The PSAT 10 criteria for 10th-grade students are 430 in reading and writing and 480 in math.


What is a Good PSAT Score?

Experts advise students to consider their goals while striving for a specific score. Whether it is to prepare for the SAT or to win a scholarship. According to College Board data from 2020-2021, eighth-grade test-takers averaged 835 on the PSAT 8/9. This is less compared to 892 for their ninth-grade classmates. For sophomores, the average PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT score was 959, while for juniors, it was 1044.

Test scores might reflect strengths, shortcomings, and flaws students can correct before taking the SAT. First, however, determine the precise score required to receive a National Merit Scholarship. It is so because the score ranges change. There is no fixed or a ‘good’ score from year to year.


The PSAT 8/9 exam lasts for two hours and 25 minutes. At the same time, the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT are 45 minutes long.

How is the PSAT timed?

As per the College Board website, the PSAT 8/9 is divided into 55 minutes of reading. There are 30 minutes of writing and language and 60 minutes of arithmetic. There are 42 questions or assignments for reading, 40 for writing and language, and 38 for math throughout those components. Reading gets 60 minutes on the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT, 35 minutes on the PSAT/NMSQT, and 70 minutes on the PSAT/NMSQT. The students are presented with 47 reading questions, 44 writing and language questions, and 48 math questions.

What Types of Merit Scholarships Are Awarded?

There are three categories for approximately 7,500 Merit Scholarships. The first is the $2,500 National Merit Scholarship. It is awarded by college admissions officers and high school guidance counselors. This prize is a $2,500 one-time payout.

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. selects roughly 1,000 corporate-sponsored merit and special scholarships. The amount and term of the award range up to $10,000 each year. Finally, there are around 4,000 renewable college-sponsored merit scholarships. The awards of this category range from $500 to $2,000 each year and recipients are chosen by specific universities.

How to Prepare for the PSAT?

Academically strong sophomores should take the PSAT or SAT. Both of these tests are only available in high schools. High potential is indicated by SAT/PSAT scores of 1300. During the summer and fall periods, ensure that you study the syllabus and practice questions. The College Board offers free practice examinations that you can go for.

The PSAT is a terrific way to not only prepare for the SAT. But, it may also assist you in qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship. It boosts your chances of receiving scholarships and other merit-based financial aid. Working hard to improve your PSAT score can help you graduate from college with a scholarship.

Many students, particularly in India, take the PSAT even if they have no intention of taking the SAT. This allows students to compare their academic abilities to diverse applicants in their peer group. It also provides students with an idea of what the SAT could be like. It allows the candidates to make an educated decision later on. Taking the PSAT is a smart idea, even if you are unsure if you will be applying to an institution in India or overseas. Many Indian institutions have implemented standardized assessments comparable to the SAT. PSAT can help you prepare for such exams as well.

Misconceptions about the PSAT

There are some common misconceptions about the PSAT exam, which include:

  • Taking PSAT is not useful: Thinking that taking the PSAT exam is ineffective is a misconception among many school students. This notion is not entirely incorrect. But, why would the College Board administer a test if it is useless? Students should be encouraged to take the exam to grasp their abilities better. They can identify areas in which they need to improve. Furthermore, taking the PSAT familiarizes the student with standardized testing and prepares for it. It can also help you analyze and decide if you should take the SAT or the ACT exam later.
  • PSAT scores impact college admissions: A poor performance on the PSAT would have no bearing on college applications and admissions. Instead, it is viewed as a practice exam to help you prepare for the SAT/ACT.
  • PSAT indicates your SAT performance: This is completely false. PSAT helps you prepare for the SAT. Students do better on the SAT than they do on the PSAT. This is because the PSAT enables you to prepare for the SAT.
  • Scholarships are available through PSAT for Indian candidates: Well! Unfortunately, this has little or no basis. Although the PSAT is co-sponsored by the National Merit Funding Corporation in the United States, overseas students are not eligible for scholarship options.

Experts believe students may assess the PSAT’s worth in two ways. First, one must prepare for the SAT, widely utilized as a college admissions exam. The other is to prepare for one of the scholarships.



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