What to Expect on the PSAT
The PSAT requires stamina, not speed. There’s a lot of content to get through, but the test-makers didn’t design this exam as a race against the clock. Keep timing in the back of your mind, focus on what’s in front of you, guess when you’re not sure — there’s no penalty! — and you’ll make it through.
The test opens with a 60-minute Reading section — it includes 5 passages from various genres. Next up? A 35-minute Writing section that tasks you with editing 4 passages for grammar and rhetoric errors. You’ll need to switch gears for sections three: a 25-minute No-Calculator Math section. Last but not least? A 45-minute Calculator section.
Format of the PSAT
Reading Test: 60 Minutes | 48 Multiple-Choice Questions | 5 Passages
- Social Science or Politics*
- Natural Science
- Social Science or Politics
- Natural Science
★ One of the above will be a comparison passage set.
*The other genres are pretty self-explanatory, but Politics is unique. Sometimes dating back to the 1700’s, this passage focuses on American politics and will be tougher than the other four. Tip from our experts! Save it for last so that it doesn’t slow your mo.
Writing & Language Test: 35 Minutes | 44 Multiple-Choice Questions | 4 Passages
Roughly 50% of these questions test you on grammar. The other 50% will require you to flex your rhetorical skills.
No-Calculator Math Section: 25 Minutes | 13 Multiple Choice Questions | 4 Grid-Ins
Wanna know the secret to math sans calculator? Write everything down! That’s right. Every step. We promise it will make all the difference.
Calculator Math Test | 45 Minutes | 27 Multiple Choice Questions | 4 Grid-Ins
This section is full of wordy problems that might look overwhelming at first, but push through! Most of them are really just testing you on the equation of a line.
Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes
How is the PSAT Scored?
The PSAT is scored out of 1520. Your Total Score breaks down into 2 Section Scores —Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math — each out of 760. Your grade report will also include will also show your Reading, Writing, and Math Test Scores (out of 38), along with Cross-Test Scores and Subscores which reflect your performance on certain types of questions.
Curious about what your PSAT scores mean and how to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship? Learn more!
When can I take the PSAT?
The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is offered nationwide every year on a Wednesday in mid-October. This year the PSAT will be held on October 11th. The College Board also offers two make-up test options on the following Saturday (Oct. 14) or the following Wednesday (Oct. 25).
Some schools also offer the PSAT 10 to sophomores as a measure of academic progress and tool for AP placement. The format of the PSAT 10 is identical to that of the PSAT/NMSTQ, but the scores are not considered for the National Merit Scholarship. Schools choose a date between February and April to administer this test.
How do I register for the PSAT?
If the PSAT is offered at your school, you don’t need to register for it. As long as you show up on PSAT day, you’ll take it! If you are homeschooled or attend a school that does not offer the PSAT, locate host schools in your area using the College Board’s High School Search Tool and contact school administrators to register.
When not covered by a school, the PSAT costs $16 per student. The PSAT 10 costs $15 per student. If your family’s income falls within USDA Income Eligibility Guidelines, you may qualify for a fee waiver.
When will I get my PSAT scores back?
PSAT scores will be released to your school administrators during the first week of December. You will gain access to your online score report the following week by logging-in to the College Board score portal.
In September of the following school year, students find out whether their scores are competitive enough to enter the National Merit Scholarship competition. Only 50,000 out of 1.5 million students will be invited to compete, and only 15,000 students (one tenth of one percent) become National Merit Scholars. However, there are a slew of other scholarships that you can qualify for by taking the PSAT.
Pro tip! On test day, make sure to check “yes” to the Student Search Service option on your PSAT answer sheet so that scholarship organizations can see your score and come knocking.
We’re here to help.
We know this is a lot to take in — the content, the timing, the chances of earning scholarship money.
We’re here to help! At Applerouth we offer a variety of PSAT prep options including group classes and one-on-one tutoring. Full of questions, but not quite ready to start studying? That’s okay! We would love to help you navigate this process. Contact one of our specialists at 866-789-PREP (7737) to get started.