Login

What is the PSAT?

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Understanding the PSAT Test Structure

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 The PSAT
  • 1:25 Why Take the PSAT?
  • 3:22 Registration
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Learn what the PSAT/NMSQT is and whether you should consider taking it (hint: if you're applying to college, the answer is probably yes). If you're new to the test, this is the lesson to start with!

The PSAT

If you're currently in the 10th or 11th grade, you've probably been hearing about the PSAT, and you might be wondering whether you need to worry about it or not. And the answer is…well, it depends! In this lesson, you'll get an overview of what the test actually is and some tips for deciding whether it's for you.

Let's start with what all those letters actually mean. Technically, the full name of the test is the PSAT/NMSQT: that's an abbreviation that stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It's a standardized test of your skills in three subject areas: critical reading, math, and writing. The test is almost entirely multiple choice, and it takes two hours and ten minutes to complete. Students typically take it in the 10th or 11th grade - or both.

The names of the sections sound like subjects you study in high school, but the PSAT isn't about memorizing facts from your classes. It's more focused on critical thinking - not to mention your test-taking skills and preparation. In many ways, it's really a test of how well you take a test.

As the name 'Preliminary SAT' implies, the PSAT is written by the same company that writes the SAT, and the two tests are very similar. Unlike the SAT, though, the PSAT isn't used for college admissions. But that doesn't make it pointless! In fact, there are two good reasons why you might want to take it.

Why Take the PSAT?

1. It's good practice for the SAT.

The SAT is the big-deal standardized test that you'll take your junior or senior year of high school when you apply to college. And the PSAT is basically the fun-size version of the SAT: it's written by the same people, covering the same topics, with the same test structure and grading system.

Even if you're going to be doing the SAT prep anyway, which you absolutely should, taking the PSAT can still help you because it gives you a preview of the test environment. So many students fly through SAT prep and then choke on the actual exam because they haven't practiced managing the stress and time pressure of test day. As silly as it sounds, familiarity with taking SAT-style exams in an SAT-style environment can go a long way towards helping you manage stress and nerves on the big day. You can't re-create that with practice books, but you can make it happen with the PSAT.

2. You can get scholarships from it.

This is where the second half of the acronym comes in: the PSAT is also the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The National Merit Scholarship program is a scholarship competition run by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, or NMSC. After the PSAT scores come out, the top-scoring 50,000 students from across the United States qualify for the first round of recognition. Of these students, the top one-third or so continue on to become semifinalists.

To advance to the next stage, applicants then need to fill out an application and do well on the SAT. Finally, around 8,000 finalists win a Merit Scholarship. If you're eligible for them, a few other scholarships also depend on the PSAT. For example, Hispanic students with high PSAT scores may be eligible for the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Check with your guidance counselor to see: you might be eligible for money you didn't even know about!

For a few students, there's also a third reason: their school requires it. That makes it all pretty simple!

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support