PSAT Practice Test – Format, Structure, and Tips to Help You Succeed

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Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), also called National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), is an examtaken bythe10th grade students preparing for college life. The body that administers this exam is the College Board, and it co-sponsors this test with the US National Merit Scholarship Corporation.The PSAT exam is a precursor for the SAT test and also acts as a scholarship qualifying exam. This means that the PSAT scores will be used to determine who gets the National Merit Scholarships.

 Why should you sit for the PSAT/NMSQT test?

These are some main reasons why students take the exam:

  • To prepare or validate their readiness for their SAT test.
  • To qualify for the scholarship competition program. The PSAT scores are a part of the scholarship qualifying criteria. Every year, over 1.5 million students apply for the National Merit Scholarship program from where approximately 8.500 students qualify for the scholarship.For example, there were 8.600 scholarship chances in 2017.
  • Some students in their 8th or 9th grade sit for the examas well, so that they can have a feel of how it looks like. These students practice with the test as sophomores, and then take it as juniors. This helps them identify their weak areas so that they can get it right in their second try during their junior years.

For more details about the scholarship program and the NMSQT test requirements, check out the official student’s guide.



What does the PSAT/NMSQT test measure?

PSAT lasts for 2 hours 45 minutes and tests a student’s skills in three areas, namely math, writing, and reading. Let’s have a look at what is tested in each of these areas:

  • Math: The math section contains data analysis, algebra, problem solving, advanced math, additional topics like trigonometry, geometry, and pre-calculus. There are two sub-sections with a total of 47 questions. The first sub-section has optional questions, and one is allowed to use a calculator during it. This section is allocated 45 minutes. The second section takes 25 minutes and does not allow the use of a calculator.
  • Reading: It is evidenced-based, and consists of reading, as well as the use of vocabulary. It has 47 questions and an allocated completion time of 60 minutes.
  • Writing:This section comprises grammar and its usage. There are 44 questions which are allocated 35 minutes.

The PSAT/NMSQT registration and exam dates

The Students can register for their PSAT test attheir localhigh schools. The registration fee is $16. A needy individual can also apply for a test fee waiver. As for the registration deadlines, the students should confirm with their school principal or guidance counsellor.

There arenon-standardized test options for the candidates who need them, such as audio files, Braille, large-font types, and reader’s scripts. In this case, a student must first obtain an approval from the College Board to be allowed to use such materials.

PSAT is usually taken in fall, that is, in October each year. Those students who take the test around mid-October will receive their scores in mid-December the same year.

Details of the PSAT/NMSQT scoring

Each correctly answered question is worth 1 point.The test takers do not lose points for the skipped and incorrectly answered questions. The next step is to total all the raw scores on a range of 160-760 (760 being the highest score). Next is to convert the raw scores into scaled scores. The new scaled scores would range from 320-1520.

Considering that PSAT acts as a practice test for SAT, the College Board allows high schools to administer essays to their students. This is because SAT contains an essay section, whereas PSAT does not. This way, students will have a chance to practice for the essay section of SAT. The PrepAway PSAT practice test does not include scores for the essay section administered by the respective high schools.

 How can you passthe PSAT test?

It is important that you prepare for this crucial exam well enough. Here are some tips to help you pass your PSAT test:

  • Understand your test well

The beginning of preparation is at understanding your test requirements. It is good that you get to know why you need to take the exam, know the format and other requirements like the topics and the areas to be tested. Choosing this route will help you know what areas to focus on.

  • Be attentive in class

The PSAT test is based on what you have already leant in high school. Make sure that you are attentive while in class and review you high school notes.

  • Take the PSAT test in your early years

If you want to know how you will fair on in your PSAT, you can choose to take the test in your sophomore years. In this case, you will know your weak areas and work on them so that by the time you are taking PSAT in your freshman years, you will have a better chance of passing it with a good mark.

  • Find a tutor

A personal tutor could guide you through the PSAT topics in each of the areas to be tested. You can ask questions regarding the various topics or any difficult areas that you come across.Kaplan, Khan Academy, and Princeton Review are some of the online platformswhere you can find a tutor, as well as other resources to help you prepare for PSAT.



  • Study guides and practice tests

There are numerous practice tests and study guides that you can make use of while preparing for your exam. Some of them are like these practice tests found on the College Board website. Make sure you study well. Read through all the topics and understand them. Do not try to simply memorize the study material, but comprehend it thoroughly.

  • Do not panic during your test

Take time to read through the test questions to ensure you understand the requirements before attempting them. Relax and answer your test with confidence and you will be sure of passing.

Final thoughts

The PSAT test, though it’s not as intensive as SAT, is still very demanding. Ensure that you set your goal to help you stay motivated throughout your test preparation period. With the right materials and preparation, it is possible for you to attain top scores in your PSAT.

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