The PSAT/NMSQT (or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a preliminary version of the SAT, taken by high school juniors, sophomores (and sometimes even younger students) as a way to gauge how well a test taker may do on the SAT and compare the test taker’s skill level with students nationwide.  The PSAT mirrors the SAT in format, though a little shorter.  Scoring range is 160 to 760 points.  While the test does not have any direct impact on college admissions, data shows that students who take the PSAT score significantly higher on the SAT than students who do not. Also, juniors taking the PSAT are automatically entered into the National Merit Program, a competition for recognition and undergraduate scholarships conducted by the nonprofit National Merit Scholarship Corporation. More than $50 million is awarded to outstanding participants every year.

Brief history of the PSAT:

The PSAT launched in 1955 as part of the National Merit Scholarship Program with the goal of awarding scholarship money to academically gifted students.  A vastly different PSAT launched in fall 2015, largely to mirror the new SAT that was to launch in March 2016. For more information about new PSAT, please visit here.

  • Year created: 1955
  • Number of test takers for class of 2015: approximately 4  million
  • Length of test: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Test format: paper-and-pencil
  • Sections on test: Reading/Writing and Math
  • Score range: 160-760
  • Cost of test: $15
  • How often the test it administered: Annually, in October
  • Administrator of test: The College Board
  • Interesting fact about the test: Recent data from The College Board shows that students who took the PSAT in their sophomore or junior years scored a combined 233 points higher than students who did not take the PSAT at all.

* SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. PSAT/NMSQT is a trademark jointly owned by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which were not involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with Kaplan or this website.

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