PSAT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is used to prepare high school sophomores and juniors who plan to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for college admissions during their senior year. While the PSAT is a voluntary test that is not required for admission to most colleges, there are a number of benefits to taking the PSAT, which include:
- Qualification for the National Merit Scholarship, which awards a $2,500 scholarship to high school seniors which goes towards their undergraduate college tuition.
- Rehearsing for the SAT, as the PSAT will give you a good idea on the subject area that you need to work on to get the highest score possible on the SAT.
- Connection to colleges and universities, as PSAT takers can join the College Board’s free Student Search Service, which allows colleges to contact prospective students who qualify for their programs based on their intended major, grade point average, and state residency.
The PSAT has many similarities to the SAT, including the reading, writing, and mathematical subject areas. However, while the SAT takes 3 hours to complete, the PSAT takes 2 hours, and while the SAT is broken up into three different sections, the PSAT is comprised of four different sections:
- The reading test, which requires students to read excerpts and short essays, and then answer 47 critical reading questions within a 60-minute period.
- The writing and language test, which tests a students grammatical editing ability in 44 questions within a 35-minute period.
- A math section with a calculator, which is comprised of 31 questions within a 45-minute period.
- A math section with no calculator, which is comprised of 17 questions over a 25-minute period.
Another similarity between the SAT and the PSAT is that the scores are calculated by the same methodology. Test takers of the PSAT and SAT:
- Earn one raw point for each question answered correctly.
- Neither lose nor gain points for questions answered incorrectly.
- Neither lose nor gain points for questions that are skipped<./li>
Like the SAT, scores for the PSAT are broken down by each section. Scores are originally calculated based on a raw score which awards students one point for each question answered correctly. Next, each raw score is scaled based on difficulty, and adds up to a total score on each section, which range between 160 and 760 for the PSAT, or 200 and 800 for the SAT. The raw scores for both the writing and reading section are then added together for a total PSAT score, which ranges between 320 and 1520 points, as opposed to the SAT which is out of 1600 points. If you have taken the PSAT and want to aim higher on the SAT, be sure to check out our list of 50 Free Tools and Resources for SAT Prep. Taking the PSAT and SAT is just part of the college application process, which can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a number of online resources available to students who are applying to college. If you have other questions about the college application process, be sure to check out our article that answers the question: How Do I Apply to College?