The preliminary SAT (PSAT), also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), provides practice for the SAT and determines eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program. This test also identifies students to receive National Negro Merit Scholarships and National Hispanic Scholars Awards. In addition, PSAT scores (along with other criteria) determine a student’s qualification for appointment to U.S. military academies. Students typically take this test during their sophomore and/or junior year in high school, although some freshmen in high school and even some seventh and eighth graders take the test on occasion.
- Three test section scores—Writing Skills, Critical Reading Skills, and Math Skills—comprise the overall PSAT score.
- The scale for each section ranges from 160 to 760 points, with the maximum score of 1520. This scoring corresponds to the scoring of the SAT, whose scores range from 200 to 800 per section with a total maximum score of 1600.
In order to take the test and qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, you must take the PSAT/NMSQT during your third year of high school. You may take it sophomore year, but you will not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. In addition, you must be enrolled as a high school student and progressing normally toward the completion of high school. You also must be planning to enter college full time in the fall immediately following your high school graduation. Finally, you must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.
The test lasts two hours and ten minutes in its entirety, and it usually is offered in October. While the PSAT is similar to the SAT, neither the PSAT test material nor test score includes higher-level mathematics or an essay section. Students can use their PSAT results to predict how well they might perform on the SAT. They also can use their PSAT scores to consider areas for improvement before taking the SAT. Students register for this test through high schools that belong to the College Board, and registration is not available online.