Everything You Need To Know About the PreACT®, PSAT/NMSQT®

The PreACT, PSAT, or NMSQT are acronyms you may have heard, but if you’re not sure what they stand for or mean, don’t worry! We’ve got you! Here’s everything you need to know about the PreACT, PSAT, and NMSQT.

What is the PreACT?

The PreACT is a practice version of the ACT®. It helps you get familiar with the format, content areas, and difficulty level of the ACT. It’s made up of multiple-choice sections for English, reading, math, and science. While taking the PreACT doesn’t directly affect your college admissions, it can help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses so you’re more prepared for the actual ACT.

What is the PSAT?

The PSAT is a practice SAT® exam. Even if you don’t plan on taking the SAT or ACT, consider taking the exam at least once. Standardized tests are challenging, but this test will prepare you for the SAT, ACT, and any other standardized test you may take in the future. If you plan to attend a 2-year or 4-year college after high school, you should take the PSAT or any PSAT Suite of Assessments, including PSAT™ 10 and PSAT™ 8/9. 

What is the NMSQT?

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) funds a scholarship that awards big money to students in their junior year of high school who score in the highest percentiles on the PSAT. Since the Selection Index’s percentile changes every year, you won’t know the cutoff for your year. Students who qualify as National Merit Finalists and Semi-finalists receive money and bragging rights on their college applications. The National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) is only applicable to U.S. students in grade 11 or lower.

When should you take these exams?

The PSAT is offered in October each year, and you should consider taking it in your junior year of high school. If you want to take it before 11th grade, you can take the PSAT 10 as a sophomore or the PSAT 8/9 as an 8th or 9th grader. Each version assesses your writing, language, and math skills.

The PreACT is typically taken in 10th grade. Many schools offer the test between Sept 1 and June 1 each year. 

Check with your school counselor to see if your school offers these tests. You can also check the College Board and ACT websites for more information. The whole purpose of these exams is to get some practice before taking the ACT or SAT!

How will you receive your scores?

Your PSAT scores are sent directly to your school, and your counselor will distribute them once they track them in their system. If you lose the paper copy, you can access your scores online. Your sign-up code is at the bottom of the score report.

Some schools may hand out and explain the PreACT score reports to students during the school day. Other schools may mail these score reports directly to parents. 

How long are the tests?

The PreACT test has four sections – English, math, reading, and science. You have about 2 hours to finish the test. The PSAT is a shortened version of the SAT but is still longer than any tests you take in school. It will take you 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish. The test covers three subjects – math, reading, and writing/language. 

Guessing vs. Omitting 

Since you only get points for correct questions, guessing has the same outcome as omitting. In other words, guess every question! The odds are in your favor if you take a random guess because there is a chance it will be correct. 

The PreACT and PSAT: To Prep or Not To Prep

Colleges don’t see your PreACT or PSAT scores. However, it’s a good idea to prepare because your scores could indicate how you’ll do on the ACT and SAT. Also, if you take the PSAT your junior year, you could qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. This prestigious scholarship looks great on college applications and could earn you money to help pay for college.