About The PSAT & Why You Should Take It

The Preliminary SAT, also known as the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), is a College Board standardized test that 10th and 11th graders take before the SAT. A practice version of the SAT, the test is a little shorter and easier overall and is taken by students across the world who want to get an idea of the SAT format and difficulty level.

About The PSAT & Why You Should Take The PSAT | Prep Zone Academy

The Difference Between PSAT & SAT

Although the two tests are quite similar in regard to content and structure, there are some major differences between the two:

  • The PSAT is 15 minutes shorter than SAT at 2 hours 45minutes
  • PSAT is scored on a slightly different scale, and the highest score possible on the PSAT is 1520

The PSAT is offered in October each year. High schools, not individual test centres, are responsible for administering the PSAT, and each school make individual decision about when to offer the test to its students.

PSAT Test Format

PSAT includes four timed sections: Evidence-Based Reading, Writing and Language, Math (no calculator), and Math (calculator allowed).

Evidence Based Reading

The section consists of 47 multiple choice questions that the students need to answer in 60 minutes. There will be 5 passages on topics, such as World Literature, Social Science, Natural Science, and History. The section tests the students’ ability to read a passage, think critically about its main ideas and key details, and answer related questions.

Writing & Language

The section includes 44 multiple choice questions, and time allocated in 35 minutes. The passages used in this section cover a wide range of topics, including history, social studies, natural science, and the humanities. The section requires the students to think like editors and identify errors and weaknesses in the passages by reading.


The section is divided into two portions, Calculator and No Calculator. The No Calculator portion comprises 17 questions and is 25 minutes long. The Calculator portion presents 31 questions and is 45 minutes long. Most are multiple choice questions, but some are student-produced response questions, or ‘grid-in’ questions. The section tests algebra I and II, geometry, and some trigonometry.

SectionSub-sectionTesting TimeNumber Of QuestionsContents / Skills Covered
Evidence-based Reading & WritingEvidence-based Reading60 minutes47Reading Comprehension, Command of Evidence, Vocabulary in Context, Analytical Skills
Writing & Language35 minutes44Grammar, Vocabulary in Context, Editing Skills
MathNo-calculator25 minutes17Algebra I/II, Geometry, Trigonometry
Calculator allowed45 minutes31

3 Main Reasons To Take The PSAT

1. To prepare for the SAT

Although PSAT does not count towards college admission applications or affect the GPA, students can take the test to get a rough idea about how they will score on the real SAT. PSAT has the same question types and assesses the same skills as the SAT.

2. To secure a personalized Career Planning Kit

By Taking the PSAT, the students will be enrolled in something called the College QuickStart, a free programme offered by the College Board that breaks down the PSAT questions into different categories and provides the students with the opportunities to identify their potential strengths and weaknesses.

3. To qualify for the National Merit Scholarship

The PSAT is a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The test scores determine the students’ eligibility for the Scholarship. Each year close to 1.6 million juniors take PSAT to enter the National Merit competition. Of these test takers, 16,000 become Semi-finalists, and of these Semi-finalists 15,000 go on to become Finalists. In the end, 7,500 entrants each wins a $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit Corporation.

Getting started with the PSAT

Prep Zone Academy has helped hundreds of International School and top Junior College students over the last 10 years with their SAT/ACT preparation and admissions to top US Colleges. Getting started with the PSAT can help students get familiarized with the format and thinking skills required of a standardized test.

Ready to start preparing for the PSAT? Contact us at +65 6812 9999 if you have any queries. Alternatively, you can also provide us with your contact details below & we will reach out to you.


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PSAT scores are not used by colleges for academic admissions, but it is still a very important test. It’s a really good practice for the SAT and could also get the scholarship dollars. Leverage the PSAT as warm up for the SAT as this could be a crucial step in the right direction on the college admissions journey.

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