Everything You Need to Know about the PSAT and NMSQT

You’ve probably heard the acronyms PSAT or NMSQT floating around your school. If you’re not sure what they stand for or what they mean, don’t worry! We’ve got you! Here’s everything you need to know about the PSAT and the NMSQT.

PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test)

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. 

NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)

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 NMSQT is only applicable to U.S. students in grade 11 or lower.

Testing Dates

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.

Check the website for the official dates of the exam. If your school doesn’t offer the test, you can contact the College Board directly to see which schools offer it nearby. The whole purpose of this exam is to get some practice before taking the SAT or ACT!

Test Scores

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

Test Length

The PSAT is a shortened version of the SAT but is still considerably 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 PSAT: To Prep or Not to Prep

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