PSAT FAQ

Most Frequenly Asked Questions about the PSAT

About PSAT

Score improvement occurs after consistent practicing and drilling concepts, coupled with learning strategies to crack the SAT. The key to raising SAT scores significantly is a long-term study strategy.

Approximately 1.3 million students in grades 10 and 11 take the test each year. For 2016, the New PSAT/NMSQT can be taken on October 19th, 22nd, or November 2nd. The scores from the PSAT are used to detemine eligibility for scholarships.

The PSAT is a shortened version of the actual SAT. Unlike the former PSAT, the new test has two portions: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The exam is 2 hours and 45 minutes in length, while the new SAT is 3 hours (+ a 50-minute optional essay).

Both sections are scored on an 760-point scale. The maximum score one can achieve on the entire test is 1520.

Here is a breakdown of the main differences between the New PSAT and the Old PSAT:

Old PSAT New PSAT
Out of 240 Out of 1520
2 hours and 10 minutes 2 hours and 45 minutes
Critical Reading-80
Writing-80
Math-80
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing - 760
Math - 760
1/4 point guessing penalty No guessing penalty
5 Answer choices 4 Answer choices

The most common reasons students take the PSAT:

  1. To practice for the SAT
  2. To receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses in the areas of reading, writing and math
  3. To compare performance among peer groups
  4. To be added to mailing lists for colleges and receive school specific information
  5. To be eligible for National Merit Scholarships

PSAT Exam Outline

  • Mathematics
    • 45-minute Section
      • Calculator permitted
      • 31 Questions
      • 8 grid-in answers
    • 25-minute Section
      • No Calculator
      • 17 Questions
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
    • 60-minute Reading Section
      • 47 Questions
    • 35-minute Writing and Language Section
      • 44 Questions

How to register?

The PSAT is administered around mid-October on either a Wednesday or Saturday, depending on the school. Unlike the SATs where registration is handled by the College Board, you must register for the PSAT through your high school.

What to bring on test day?

You should bring the following items to the exam:

  • A couple of pencils and an eraser
  • An approved calculator
  • Driver’s license or another approved picture ID
  • A bottle of water

You should bring the following items to the exam:

  • A couple of pencils and an eraser
  • An approved calculator
  • Driver’s license or another approved picture ID
  • A bottle of water

How can I prepare for the PSAT?

The PSAT is a shorter version of the SAT, but essentially has the same types of questions and tests the same concepts as the SAT test. We recommend preparing for the PSAT test by preparing for the SAT. Ivy Global offers SAT Classes and SAT private tutors as well as test prep materials.

What are the similarities and differences between the SAT and PSAT?

The SAT and PSAT cover very similar content. They both use the same types of questions to test:

  • Mathematical Ability (multiple choice and grid-in questions)
  • Critical Reading (sentence completion and reading comprehension questions)
  • Writing Skills (error identification questions, and questions that ask you to improve sentences and paragraphs)

However, there are a number of differences between the two tests. For example:

  • The questions on the PSAT are less difficult than those on the SAT, as the PSAT is usually taken in Grade 10 or 11. The PSAT is considered excellent practice for the SAT as it familiarizes students with the kinds of questions and instructions they’ll see on the SAT (see table below for details).

The SAT and PSAT cover very similar content. They both use the same types of questions to test:

  • Mathematical Ability (multiple choice and grid-in questions)
  • Critical Reading (sentence completion and reading comprehension questions)
  • Writing Skills (error identification questions, and questions that ask you to improve sentences and paragraphs)

However, there are a number of differences between the two tests. For example:

  • The questions on the PSAT are less difficult than those on the SAT, as the PSAT is usually taken in Grade 10 or 11. The PSAT is considered excellent practice for the SAT as it familiarizes students with the kinds of questions and instructions they’ll see on the SAT (see table below for details).

Test Sections & Questions Types New SAT New PSAT
Math 1 section (55 minutes, 38 questions)
1 section (25 minutes, 20 questions)
1 section (45 minutes, 31 questions)
1 section (25 minutes, 17 questions)
Evidence-based Reading 1 section (65 minutes, 52 questions) 1 section (60 minutes, 47 questions)
Evidence-based Writing 1 section (35 minutes, 44 questions 1 section (35 minutes, 44 questions
Essay 50-minute optional essay No Essay
Total Testing Time 3 hours (+ 50-minute optional essay) 2 hours, 45 minutes

Unlike the SAT, PSAT scores are not reported to colleges or used for college admission. Instead, scores are reported only to the student; they give feedback on how you are doing compared to your peers and tell you what areas you need to improve on before you take the SAT.

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