PSAT/NMSQT: An Overview

The Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is outstanding practice for taking the SAT. By taking the PSAT/NMSQT, students also compete for national scholarships, get a good sense of their strengths and weaknesses in preparing for the SAT, and get mail from colleges. The PSAT/NMSQT is given in October and is usually taken by high school juniors. To get information about registering for this exam, contact your high school counselor.

The test lasts 2 hours and 10 minutes and consists of the following:

  • Two Critical Reading sections: These sections contain sentence completions, questions from short reading passages, and questions from long reading passages. They are designed to test your ability to read and comprehend and to understand words in context. You are allowed 25 minutes for each section.

  • Two Math sections: These sections contain multiple-choice and grid-in questions that test your mathematical reasoning ability by asking you to solve problems and word problems in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. You are allowed 25 minutes for each section.

  • One Writing Skills section: This section contains sentence error identification, sentence improvement, and paragraph improvement questions. It tests your ability to use standard written English, to find errors in usage and structure, and to choose effective revisions in sentences and paragraphs. You are allowed 30 minutes to complete this section.

The Critical Reading, math, and writing questions each generate scores of 20 through 80. When you receive your score reports, you will get the three separate scores and two estimates of what your scores might be on the SAT.

The problems are slightly graduated in difficulty within each question type, except for critical reading, which is not in order of difficulty. You receive a penalty for incorrect answers, so don't guess unless you can eliminate at least one choice. On math grid-ins, you receive no penalty for guessing.