The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a standardized test administered by the College Board and cosponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the United States. Approximately 3.5 million students take the PSAT/NMSQT each year. In 2013, 1.59 million high school sophomores and 1.55 million high school juniors took the PSAT.
There are three versions of the PSAT – the PSAT 8/9 is designed for high school freshman students and the PSAT 10 for sophomore students. Both of these can safely be considered “Practice” SAT exams. The PSAT/NMSQT is designed for high school junior students (year 11) and other than the difficulty levels is very similar to the PSAT 10 (given at different times of the year). Students that take the PSAT/NMSQT are automatically screened for the National Merit Scholarship program.
The PSAT 8/9 is an easier version of the PSAT aligned with freshman high school levels. This is a good test to take if you have not taken a test of this type or you just need practice. Taking this test will help students and teachers identify areas where additional efforts are required.
The test is made up of three sections: reading (55 minutes, 42 questions/tasks), writing and language (30 minutes, 40 questions/tasks) and math (60 minutes, 38 questions/tasks). The total time for the test is 2 hours and 25 minutes. More details can be found on the PSAT 8/9 Inside The Test page.
PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT
Both tests are very similar and cover almost (if not exactly) the same material. The references are not clear on this where some sites, in particular the College Board site, claim they are the same test, while other accounts indicate the PSAT/NMSQT is a little more difficult. Check with the College Board directly when you are getting closer to taking this test to get the current details.
Both tests share the same format and are 2 hours and 45 minutes in length broken down as follows – reading (60 minutes, 47 questions/tasks), writing and language (35 minutes, 44 questions/tasks), and math (70 minutes, 48 questions/tasks). See Inside the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 Tests for more detailed information about each test.
The PSAT 10 test is given in the February – March period and the PSAT/NMSQT given October – November (check the College Board site for exact dates and locations). Both tests allow the student to choose to send the test results to other scholarship organizations. IMPORTANT: Only the PSAT/NMSQT test is used by the National Merit Scholarship program for candidate screening.
Test Locations and Dates
Unlike the main SAT test, the PSAT tests are normally given at the high school in the USA where the student is studying. International students can also take the PSAT and do so through partner schools overseas. At the time of this writing there are no PSAT partner schools on the Chinese mainland however there are some in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region. For a current list of partner schools and the test dates see the College Board School Search page. It is advised to make arrangements at least four months in advance. More information for International students wanting to take the tests can also be found on the College Board International PSAT page.