What is the PSAT?

The PSAT /NMSQT is a standardized test students take in their junior year.  It is officially called the “Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test” and is a shorter, easier version of the SAT.  Some students also take it their sophomore year for practice.

Why is the PSAT important?

The PSAT plays one very important role in the college admissions process: it can lead to the very prestigious Merit Scholarship for students who score between 1420 and1480.

Although the junior year PSAT is the score that qualifies students for the Merit, some school districts also offer the PSAT to sophomore in October or the PSAT 10 in the Spring of sophomore more. This is a good opportunity for students to practice and see what they need to prepare for the junior year test.

Although the scholarship’s monetary value of $2500 is not great given today’s high college costs, the prestige of becoming a Merit finalist or semifinalist can bring huge scholarships from colleges and universities eager to attract Merit scholars. Some even offer free rides.

Students who are good test takers should definitely give this test a go!


What is special about the PSAT?

It is unique because the PSAT has no official role in the college admissions process.  No college requires is, but many high schools encourage students to take it—especially if they plan to take the SAT.  It offers students good practice. 

The PSAT does, however, have a very important role in the college admissions process:  it is the qualifying test for the very prestigious Merit Scholarship. Although the monetary value of $2500 is not great given the high cost of college, the prestige of becoming a Merit semifinalist of finalist can result in very high scholarship awards from colleges eager to enroll Merit scholars.

What is the content of the PSAT?


PSAT Reading Test

  • 47 multiple choice questions
  • 60 minutes    
  • Questions based on US & world literature, history and social studies, social science, and science.
  • Vocabulary in context

PSAT Writing & Language Test

  • 44 multiple choice questions
  • 35 minutes    
  • Questions based on non-fiction passages and arguments with topics around  US & careers, history and social studies, the humanities, social science, and science.
  • Test grammar, vocabulary in context, editing skills, including punctuation

PSAT Math Test

  • 48 multiple choice questions (most are multiple-choice but some are student-produced response questions, or “grid in” questions)
  • 70 minutes    
  • Questions divided into two portions: Calculator and No Calculator
  • Tests Algebra I and II, geometry, and some trigonometry
How is the PSAT scored?

PSAT scores range from 320 to1520.

  • Average score is around 920 (460 in Math and 460 in Evidence- Based Reading and Writing.
  • An OUTSTANDING score (which qualifies a student for National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist) is between 1420 and 1480 (9/19).
  • Students scores on each subtest range from 160 – 760. The two scaled scores are added together to get the total PSAT score, which ranges from 320 – 1520.
When are the PSAT test dates in 2023?

The College Board website has not published official PSAT test dates like in previous years. The PSAT website mentions that the PSAT tests are administered from October 2nd – October 31st, 2023. Contact your school principal or counselor to find out more.

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