College Board PSAT home page
Interpreting PSAT Scores for two-digit scores see page 13
PSAT Practice Tests from the College Board
What is the PSAT/NMSQT: These letters stand for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The PSAT is a practice SAT test. When taken in the junior year, it is also the qualifying test for National Merit Scholarships.
When: The PSAT is given only once each year, in October. Students typically take the test as 10th graders for practice, and then as 11th graders for the chance to qualify as a national merit scholarship.
Where: The test will be given at SHS.
Creator of the SAT: The College Board, a nonprofit organization based in Princeton, NJ. This is the same organization that administers the SAT.
Length: 2 hours 45 minutes. The PSAT is a bit shorter than the SAT, and there is no essay.
Organization: The PSAT is divided into the following sections:
Reading (60 minutes): You will be asked to read several essays, and answer questions about each one. There are a total of 47 questions in this section.
Writing and Language (35 minutes): You will read a series of short assignments (usually 1 to 3 short paragraphs) and answer a few questions about each assignment. The questions are based on grammar, use of vocabulary, and meaning. There are 44 questions in this section.
Math (70 minutes): There are several math sections, some that allow the use of a calculator and some that do not. Some of the math sections are multiple choice and some require that you fill in the correct answer. There is a heavy emphasis on Algebra, but there is also some Geometry and Algebra 2. Depending on the math courses you have taken at the time of the test, you may not be able to answer all the questions. Do not be concerned if you encounter questions that are not familiar to you.
a) Do not leave any questions unanswered. If you don't know an answer, there is no penalty for guessing. If you are approaching the time limit for a section, fill in any remaining questions on your answer sheet with a random letter (all are statistically equally likely to be correct). If possible, try to eliminate one or two of the possible answers before guessing. That will give you a better chance of guessing correctly.
b) All questions count equally toward your total score, so don't spend too much time on any one question. If you can't figure out the answer right away, move on. You can always revisit the question later.
c) In the math sections, the easiest questions will the first ones and the hardest questions will be the last ones. Therefore, you should try to work quickly (and of course carefully) through the first part of each math section so you will have time to tackle the harder problems.
d) If you don't know how to figure out the answer to the first question you come to in a section, look for a question that you know you can answer. This will help you to gain confidence and relax.
e) Regularly compare the problem number on your answer sheet to the problem number you are answering in the test booklet. It is far too easy to get "off track" and discover (perhaps too late) that you are marking answers that don't match up with question numbers in the booklet. This is most likely to happen if you skip a question.
Test Preparation: It is widely known and proven that studying for the PSAT pays off in better scores. You may choose to study independently or with friends, but it will most likely be to your advantage to take a course if one is available. You can learn quite a lot from someone who can teach you test-taking techniques and help you to review the concepts you will need to know. Taking practice tests is an excellent way to prepare. Here's why:
a) Taking practice tests helps you to become familiar with the format, structure, and problem types on the actual test.
b) You will become familiar with the time constraints, so you will be better prepared to use your time wisely on the actual test.
c) Working problems of the type you will encounter provides you with excellent review of grammar, vocabulary, math, etc.
d) SAT problems are often written in a way that allows you to learn and apply various "tricks" and techniques to solve them quickly and/or efficiently. Since time is always a factor, learning how questions are written will help you to optimize the time available.
Practice Materials: There are many PSAT prep materials available online and in bookstores. You will find books that offer practice tests published by a variety of companies (Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barrons, McGraw Hill, The College Board, and others). There are also flash cards, specialty books (math review, grammar review, etc.) and other materials. If you purchase materials, be sure that they were prepared in 2016 or after and are for the new PSAT.
There are also online tests. One place to find them is at the College Board PSAT practice test website. The College Board has posted 2 practice tests online, and they are free of charge.
a) Begin preparing (studying) well in advance (weeks or months) of the test. Studying regularly for short periods of time will be much better than waiting until the last minute and then having a marathon study session.
b) The PSAT is not a test for which you can cram at the last minute. So, don't stay up late studying on the night before the test. Get a good night's sleep.
c) On test day, eat a good breakfast and allow plenty of time to get to the testing center.
d) Take sharpened number 2 pencils (2 or more, with erasers), a calculator, and extra batteries for the calculator. Your calculator may be a graphing or scientific type; for details, click here. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TOO USE YOUR CELL PHONE, so don't expect to use it as a calculator. Laptop computers and tablets are also not allowed.
e) While the PSAT does determine if you will qualify to compete for a National Merit Scholarship when you take it as a junior, the primary purpose is to help you to prepare for the SAT. So don't give the PSAT more weight than it deserves. Remember that there are many scholarships available, of which the National Merit Scholarship is just one.
How to Register: SHS students will register at school for the PSAT. You will get more information after the school year begins in the fall.