What is the PSAT Test?

The PSAT/NMSQT® test, commonly referred to as the PSAT, is much more than an early version of the SAT ® test. It is also the qualifying test for National Merit® Scholarship programs, hence the second part of its name. As such, the test can have a great deal of influence and impact on your student’s college admissions experience.

The PSAT test is offered nationwide every October. Students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 can take the exam depending on what is offered by their high school, but only the 11th-grade test is used for National Merit® purposes. The multiple-choice exam is 2 hours and 45 minutes long and is divided into four sections: Evidence-Based Reading (60 minutes), Writing and Language (35 minutes), and Math (with a calculator: 45 minutes; without a calculator: 25 minutes).

How are PSAT scores calculated?

PSAT scores are calculated by converting a “raw score” — with each correct answer equaling one point — into a scaled score, which ranges from 160 to 760 per section. These scaled scores are combined into a composite score. The highest possible composite score on the PSAT test is 1520.

Students also receive subscores and cross-scores that, while they do not affect their overall score, can be useful for personal reference. Finally, the National Merit® Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) Selection Index score is calculated and is shown on the second part of the score report.

Why is it important to perform well on the PSAT test?

Applications and programs that require standardized test scores will not accept PSAT scores. However, the Selection Index score is used to determine your student’s eligibility and qualification for the National Merit® Scholarship Program (NMSP). This academic competition, which began in 1955, is sponsored by the National Merit® Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It is responsible for awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships every year.

What is the National Merit ® Scholarship Program (NMSP)?

High school juniors who take the PSAT test and meet citizenship requirements are automatically entered in the NMSP competition. After all PSAT tests have been completed and scored for the year, the NMSC determines the top-scoring entrants.

This list typically totals approximately 50,000 students. Two-thirds of these individuals will not continue in the competition. Instead, they will receive letters of commendation that can be an asset on college applications. The NMSC then narrows its list down to Semifinalists and Finalists. Ultimately, about 7,500 National Merit® Scholarship winners are selected based on their accomplishments and talents. National Merit® Scholarship awards vary in amount and nature, but some colleges award full tuition scholarships to students who achieve National Merit® Semifinalist or Finalist status.

Students who hope to earn one of these prestigious awards will benefit significantly from a prep program or tutoring service that helps students study for the PSAT exam. Scholarships aside, students have incentives to take the PSAT test because it is good practice for the SAT test. In form and content, the PSAT test is essentially the SAT® test minus the latter’s essay section.

Where can my student learn strategies and take practice tests?

At KD College Prep, we offer both college preparatory programs and individual personalized tutoring designed to help students prepare for the PSAT test.

Ours is a proven method that routinely produces the score increases needed to achieve Commended or Semifinalist status. Last year, 40% of Dallas-Fort Worth’s National Merit® Semifinalists were also KD College Prep students. Students leave our program not only well-equipped for National Merit® Scholarship testing, but also having acquired the skills they need for future academic success, no matter where they choose to go to college or what they decide to study.

To schedule a campus tour and learn more about our programs, contact KD College Prep today.