Juniors across the country will take the PSAT-NMSQT test on Wednesday, October 10.  The College Board administers this test, a slightly shorter version of the SAT test, a college entrance exam similar to the ACT.  The PSAT-NMSQT test qualifies students for National Merit Scholarships, awarded to high-performing students since 1955.

Take the test seriously!  The test is beneficial, even if a student doesn’t qualify for a scholarship.

Some juniors are ahead of the game and already starting preparation for the ACT.   The PSAT test is another opportunity to take a paper-and-pencil test with question formats that differ from the ACT suite of tests typically offered by schools in our area.  The PSAT simulates the testing environment of the ACT or SAT, which helps students become familiar and at ease with the testing process.

PSAT-MNSQT Test Format

The PSAT and SAT both have Math, Writing and Reading sections.  Unlike the ACT, there is no separate science section;  science is incorporated in the reading passages.  The Reading section of the PSAT is slightly shorter than the SAT, with 60 minutes to answer 47 questions.  Two of the five passages include charts or graphs used to answer several questions. Two passages are science-related, two are on history/social studies topics, and one passage is from US or World literature.

The Writing test on the PSAT is 35 minutes, the same as the SAT.  It includes questions about grammar, usage, mechanics and other writing skills, all in a multiple-choice format similar to the ACT.

The Math section of both the PSAT and SAT is divided into two parts:  one part is with a calculator, and one is without a calculator.  Students who take the PSAT have 45 minutes on the part with the calculator (10 minutes less than the SAT) and 25 minutes of questions without (same as the SAT).

Compare the SAT and ACT Formats

This is a good opportunity for students to see whether they prefer the ACT or the SAT test format.  The tests are somewhat similar since SAT made changes a couple years ago, but there are differences in Reading and Math.  The Reading questions in the PSAT/SAT are posed differently from those on the ACT.  And some students may prefer the calculator/no calculator section in Math on the PSAT/SAT.

National Merit Qualifying

To start the National Merit process, students only need to take the test.  The National Merit Scholarship Program website explains its qualifications.  Students who become semi-finalists and finalists must complete additional steps, which include taking the SAT.  The National Merit Scholarship Program also gathers information from a student’s high school and looks at the student’s academic record.  Semi-finalists are announced in September.

Prepare for the PSAT-NMSQT Test

Go to the College Board website to look at practice questions, or download and take a practice test.  Aside from any practice, get a good night’s sleep on Tuesday and eat a good breakfast before the test!

For more information about ACT test preparation, check out our website!  Students who want to plan their test preparation can take a FREE practice ACT test at Knowledge Edge on November 17.  To register or for more information, go to our website, www.knowledge-edge.net.