The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a standardized test administered by the College Board in the United States. PSAT can be used both practice for the SAT and ACT and one of the starting points on your college admissions journey. Considered to be a “preliminary SAT,” the PSAT test gives students a sense of the format, question types, content, and time limits that they will encounter on the SAT. Additionally, the PSAT test serves as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Students outside the U.S., whether American citizens or other nationalities, must make arrangements with a local school to register for and take the PSAT/NMSQT. The PSAT/NMSQT Coordinator at that school will help the student:

Use the College Board’s PSAT High School Search Tool to find a school in your area that administers the PSAT, then contact that school to inquire about test dates and procedures

Pay the $14  test fee(Note that fee waivers are available only to students in 11th grade)

Receive the Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT, which includes a full-length practice test.


The PSAT is offered in October/November of each year. Because high schools rather than individual test centres administer the PSAT, each school decides when to give the test to its students.  Schools can offer the PSAT either on a Wednesday during the school day or on a Saturday.

Not sure which PSAT test date applies to your child’s school? Use the College Board’s PSAT Test Date Search Tool

PSAT/NMSQT can be taken only once a year


The PSAT test measures a student’s skills in three core areas: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. The PSAT test is composed of five sections—two Critical Reading sections, two Math sections, and one Writing section. Total testing time is 2 hours and 10 minutes. The breakdown of each section is as follows:

Critical Reading –  50 minutes (two 25-minute sections), 13 sentence completion questions ( vocabulary and ability to comprehend the logic of complex sentences.) 35 Reading Passage Questions (reading and interpreting what is implied by or stated in a passage)

Math – 50 minutes (two 25-minute sections) 28 Multiple choice questions  (number and operation; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; and data analysis, statistics, and probability.) and 10 Student-Produced Response Questions (number and operation; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; and data analysis, statistics, and probability)

Writing – 30 minutes (one 30-minute section) 20 Improving Sentences Questions (grammar and usage) 14 Identifying Sentence Errors Questions (grammar and usage) 5 Improving Paragraphs Questions (writing and revising)

The test is mostly multiple-choice, but there are 10 open-response math questions that require takers to enter their responses on a grid. Students are allowed to use calculators on the math sections


The best way to prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT is to take challenging courses, read widely, write frequently, and develop problem-solving skills both in the classroom and through extracurricular activities. These are the same habits that prepare students for the SAT and AP exams as well as college and career.

Author: Ketaki Kapoor

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