What To Know Before Taking the PSAT

By: Imani Johnson

South High School Student

The PSAT will be here before you know it so it’s time to start studying. What is the PSAT? Is it different than the SAT? Is it important? What should I know for it? Well all these question will be answered for you.

The PSAT Test is a standardized pencil-and-paper test just like the many students take nation wide all throughout their schooling. It is usually taken in your junior year of high school and it gives students an idea of how they’ll score on the SAT.

Yes, the PSAT is the preliminary SAT exam and acts as pre-exposure to the SAT. The SAT is a Scholastic Assessment Test, (formerly, Scholastic Aptitude Test). Nearly every college in America uses the test as a common and objective scale for evaluating a student's college readiness.

•  Structure: SAT has 10 sections; PSAT has 5 sections

•  Length: SAT is 3 hrs. 45 mins.; PSAT is 2 hrs. 10 mins

•  Purpose: SAT is used for college admissions and scholarships; PSAT is used for National Merit 
    Recognition and scholarships.

•  Scoring: SAT has a possible score of 2400; PSAT has a possible score of 240. Obviously the scores 
   correlate, so the PSAT helps you figure out what you’ll score on the SAT. 

Yes, the PSAT should be taken seriously because it is great practice for the SAT, and the SAT is very important if you wish pursue a collage education. The PSAT is also called the NMSQT, or the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Scoring well on the PSAT can get you a National Merit Scholarship, which is free money, improve that college application, and impress your parents.


1.  The exam consists of three main sections:
      A.  Critical reading - Two 25-minute sections 
Contains 48 questions total
      B.  Mathematics: Split into two 25-minute sections 
Contains 39 questions total
      C.  Writing: One 30-minute section 
containing 39 questions total

2.   Don’t guess on the SAT.  
      There is a guessing penalty on the SAT - You lose a 1/4 of a point for every wrong answer
      This means that if you really don’t know an answer then your best bet is to leave it blank. A blank   
      will not cost you any points but it wont give you any points either.

3.    Using time management skills is necessary. Even though a two hour and ten minuet test may sound 
       like a plethora (SAT word) of time, compared to our 42-minuet period test, but because the test is 
       broken up into sections that are timed, it is crucial that you pace you self to the best of your

4.   Only the junior year score counts. It’s a good idea for sophomores to take the PSAT for practice, 
      but their scores don’t count toward the National Merit Scholarship Competition. So even if a 
      sophomore aced the test last year, she has to take it again this year.

5.   There is a lot of great PSAT prep books, websites, and even cell phone apps, so take advantage of it.

This year's PSAT was taken in October, but it's never too early to start studying.  Be sure to visit the website for the PSAT question of the day.

Please excuse the formatting. I had a few issues.

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