What Is the PSAT?

The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT, is the qualifying test for candidates applying for a National Merit Scholarship. The test is provided by the College Board and the scholarship itself. The test consists of three sections: reading, writing and math..

PSAT – a New Strategy

The PSAT was reformatted for 2015, and the new test does not penalize test takers for wrong answers. This is important when planning your test strategy as guessing can positively influence your score.

PSAT Format

The PSAT takes a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete and includes 139 questions, which are broken down as follows:

Test Time Number of Questions
Reading 60 minutes 48 questions
Writing 35 minutes 44 questions
Math 70 minutes 47 questions

PSAT Reading Test

The reading section of the PSAT is evidence based, meaning that the focus is on your overall comprehension of the provided text. You are provided with either 1 - or 2 passages of text, some accompanied by a graph or table, which are followed by a series of multiple choice questions. The amount of questions per text depends on the length of the test.

PSAT Writing Test

The writing section of the PSAT focuses on language and structure. You are provided with a short passage of text and then asked to choose if and how you would rephrase specific sentences. The questions are on both grammar and vocabulary.

PSAT Math Test

The math section of the PSAT is divided into two sections. The first section is 45 minutes long, and you have the option of using a calculator. The second section is 25 minutes long, and you cannot use a calculator. Theere are three topics covered in the math section:

  • Algebra - linear equations and systems
  • Problem solving and data analysis
  • Geometry and trigonometry

Some of the questions are not multiple choice questions but "grid-in" questions where you write in your answer on the answer sheet with the use of a grid.

Prepping for the PSAT

Getting ready for the PSAT is important, but it does not have to be difficult! Knowing how to work through the questions efficiently is your key to success. TestPrep-Online provides you with practice questions and sample tests, complete with answers and explanations, so you’ll never be in the dark.


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