The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a program cosponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It's a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT®. It also gives you a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programs (grade 11) and gain access to college and career planning tools. Scores are not used for college admissions, but it will help you if you become familiar with the exam.
The most common reasons for taking the PSAT/NMSQT are to:
- Receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses on skills necessary for college study. You can then focus your preparation on those areas that could most benefit from additional study or practice.
- See how your performance on an admissions test might compare with that of others applying to college.
- Enter the competition for scholarships from NMSC (grade 11).
- Help prepare for the SAT. You can become familiar with the kinds of questions and the exact directions you will see on the SAT.
- Receive information from colleges when you check "yes" to Student Search Service.
According to collegeboard.com, in 2012, 55% of PSAT/NMSQT test-takers were sophomores or younger students. Younger test-takers have more time to develop the skills. Students who take the test as sophomores need to take it again as juniors to qualify for National Merit scholarship programs. Test is offered twice a year in October.
What's on the Test
The PSAT/NMSQT includes five sections: It has the same structure as the SAT, without Algebra II and essay. The whole test requires 2 hours and 10 minutes.
(2) 25-minute critical reading sections for a total of 48 questions
(2) 25-minute math sections, covering the following categories, for a total of 38 questions
- Numbers and Operation
- Algebra and Functions
- Geometry and Measurement
- Data Analysis, Statistics and Probability
- 28 multiple choice
- 10 student-produced responses
(1) 30-minute writing skills section for a total of 39 multiple-choice questions
Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT
If you plan to take the PSAT/NMSQT In the fall, pick up the Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT from your college/career center in September/October.
The Student Guide has three main sections:
- Test taking help
- Information about National Merit Scholarship Corporation scholarship competitions
- A full-length practice test -Take the practice test like it's the real thing! You can go online to review complete answer explanations for all the questions on the practice test—to help you prepare before test day.
Use the Student Guide to Do Your Best
- Practice nowwith sample critical reading, math, and writing skills questions.
- Get familiar with the instructions for each type of test question.
- Review the section about scholarships with your parents.