What Is the PSAT Exam?

Everything You Need to Know About the PSAT

Let’s start with the basics!

What is the PSAT? The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT / NMSQT®) is a standardized exam administered by the College Board and co-sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the United States. Each year in October, the PSAT is taken by approximately 3.5 million high school students across the nation.

The PSAT exam is composed of multiple-choice questions and is similar in many aspects to the SAT exam. Though this exam might sound scary, there’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, taking this exam can even make you eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program

Why should you take this exam?

The PSAT is important for multiple reasons. The most important reason: PSAT is an effective SAT practice test. Even if the test is a little bit different than the actual SAT, the practice will pay off in the end. By taking the PSAT, you will be able to get a clear idea of where your academic strengths and weaknesses lie. Your results from the PSAT will grant you a more focused future plan in regards to your SAT. For instance, you can center your 12th-grade study and SAT prep on your weak areas. By doing so, you will be able to present better SAT scores and college applications to those schools you are interested in.

But wait! Let’s not forget about the money. If you win the National Merit Scholarship you could win up to $2,500 for your college expenses along with a higher chance to win other types of schools.

Who should take the PSAT exam?

Everyone should take the PSAT exam. It doesn’t hurt to try. From personal experience, the PSAT can only do good. Not only will you get the practice but you may also win some money for school. The ideal time to take this exam is the 10th or 11th grade. You may be asking yourself “Why should I take this test in 10th or 11th grade?”. The answer is simple, the sooner the better. With that being said, if you want to take the test in 9th grade, you’re welcome to. The more familiar you become with the style of testing, the better.  

Different versions 

The PSAT/NMSQT is for 11th graders only, because only 11th graders can qualify for National Merit Scholarships. The PSAT 10 is the version of the PSAT 10th graders take. The PSAT 8/9 is for 8th and 9th graders. Students start taking the PSAT early both to prepare for the SAT and to prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT in an effort to win scholarship money for college.

How can I prepare and register for the PSAT?

Try preparing yourself the cheapest way possible…

Preparing for the PSAT can be overwhelming especially if it’s your first time taking the notorious exam. The good news is that there are many ways you can reduce stress leading up to the exam date and save money!

Don’t waste your money buying expensive practice tests when you can find a bunch of them for free online. To make your life easier, we put together a shortlist of possible sources where you can obtain free PSAT practice tests. 

The registering process is a bit different 

Unlike the SAT, you can’t register online for the PSAT. You will need to do the registering process through your school (or if you are a homeschooled student), you can find schools near you where you can take the test at. 

The school will register and schedule your test date. Ask your school counselor about when your class is scheduled to take the PSAT. View upcoming PSAT test dates.

If it’s September in your Junior year of high school and you haven’t heard anything about the PSAT exam, you should get in contact with a counselor at your school or at a school in your community to sign up. 

To learn more about registering for the PSAT, click here.