What is the PSAT Test?

M.R. Anglin

In the United States, students who choose to go to college or university will commonly have to take one of two aptitude tests--the SAT Reasoning™ test and the ACT®. These tests are used to evaluate what the student has learned throughout all his years of schooling. A Preliminary SAT® test (PSAT® test) is a test that many students take to prepare for the SAT®. The PSAT® test is commonly taken by students who are in the 10th or 11th grade. Students who take this test do not necessarily have to study for it the same way they study for a regular test, but they can prepare for it by taking practice tests.

Students may participate in PSAT testing to increase their chances of winning scholarships.
Students may participate in PSAT testing to increase their chances of winning scholarships.

The complete name of the PSAT®® test is the Preliminary SAT®/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying test (PSAT/NMSQT). The scores of this test do not count toward college admission, but there are other benefits to it. Students who take this test are able to gauge their skills in preparation for the SAT®. The test allows them to mimic the circumstances of the SAT® and allows them to see their weaknesses. It can also qualify 11th grade students for different scholarship competitions.

A PSAT® test is divided into three sections: math, writing, and reading. Each of these sections is scored separately and the scores will range from between 20-80 points. The different sections of the test are characterized by different types of questions. For instance, the math portion will feature word problems as well as other types of math problems. While taking the reading portion of the test, a student may have to read a paragraph and then answer questions regarding what he has just read.

Though the PSAT® test is given in October, students will normally have to wait until December to receive their results. When the results do arrive, one of the scores that will be found on the result sheet is the percentile score. This score will tell a student how well he did in relation to other students who took the test. For instance, if a student scores within the 90th percentile, it means that he did better than 90 percent of the students who took the test across the nation. In addition, the individual portions of the test are combined to form a cumulative score--the selection index--which is used to determine scholarship competition eligibility.

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