When Do You Take the PSAT?

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
High school students take the PSAT to assess college readiness and to determine possible qualification for scholarships. Learn about the exam, when students should take it, and what it means for their future academic and career goals.

Taking the PSAT

The PSAT is one test administered under two names, for two purposes, at various times throughout the year. As the PSAT 10, the exam is exclusively for high school sophomores, providing 10th-graders with the opportunity to practice for future PSAT and SAT tests. As the PSAT/NMSQT, the PSAT is administered to high school juniors and sophomores. While the PSAT/NMSQT is the same test as the PSAT 10, only PSAT/NMSQT results are delivered to the National Merit Scholarship Program, to help them determine student eligibility.

PSAT Test Dates

Regardless of whether you're a sophomore or junior, the date of the test is based on which one you take. The PSAT 10 is typically offered in late winter, while the PSAT/NMSQT is offered in the fall.

PSAT Version Test Dates (2016) Locations
PSAT 10 Between February 22 and March 4 At school
PSAT/NMSQT Oct. 15, Oct. 19, or Nov. 2 At school

PSAT Overview

The test consists of three main sections:

  • The Reading section is 60 minutes, and it's composed of multiple-choice questions measuring reading comprehension and graphical interpretation skills.
  • The Writing and Language section is 35 minutes and has multiple-choice questions testing writing, editing and interpretation skills.
  • The Math section is 70 minutes and consists of both multiple-choice and grid-in questions focused on practical applications of algebra, problem solving, data analysis and complex math.

Preparing for the PSAT

According to the College Board, which administers the PSAT, the test aims to measure not only academic knowledge, but also critical and analytical thinking. Therefore, the best basic way to prepare for the PSAT is to take and engage in challenging high school courses. Students readying for the PSAT may also benefit from preparation courses that help them review what they learned in school, with a focus on the specific content of the PSAT. Online prep courses offer busy high school students a flexible PSAT prep option. Study.com's PSAT Prep: Help and Review and PSAT Prep: Practice & Study Guide include short, easy-to-follow video lessons, along with quizzes, to help students brush up on PSAT subject areas and familiarize themselves with the test's structure.

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