The PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test) is the test that students can take before the SAT – a university entrance test. Usually, high schoolers take PSAT in their 10th or 11th grade to try what the actual SAT is. However, there are PSAT for 8th and 9th-grade students too.
The College Board – a non-profit, private organization that assesses students’ performance before college – arranges both the PSAT and the SAT. There are three Pre-SAT tests: PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT. Each type of PSAT has three areas to test: Math (with and without a calculator), Writing and Language, and Reading. For more convenience of scoring, the areas are combined into just two categories: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). However, each PSAT has its own specialties, so let’s look at the differences between them.
If you already know your PSAT result and want to convert it into the SAT marks, please see the conversion table at the very end of this article.
PSAT 8/9: Purpose, Content, Structure (Scores) and Timing, Schedule, and Results
PSAT 8/9 is developed for the 8th and 9th grade-schoolers. This test can become the first step to understanding your talents career preferences and reveal the areas you may need to improve in high school. PSAT 8/9 is also a perfect instrument on the way to prepare for the final SAT exam (or series of them).
In the Reading section, you will need to make simple conclusions, understand the straightforward information relationships, and identify the meaning of text and graphs. Writing and Language section will require knowing simple punctuation, noticing grammatical challenges in simple contexts, and reading basic graphics. The Math section includes one or two-step problems, proportions, statistics, percents, ratios, and basic probability. The PSAT 8/9 does not include an Essay section.
Structure (Scores) and Timing
The total score of the PSAT 8/9 consists of the separate scores you get for two sections: Math and EBRW. You can earn 120 – 720 points in each section, which makes 240 – 1440 in total. In the results, you will also see several kinds of additional scores: test, cross-test, and subscores. These scores break down the general data into smaller sections.
You will have 42 questions concerning reading, 40 questions about writing, and 38 math questions. The standard testing time is 2 hours, 25 minutes plus two 5-minute breaks.
Schools arrange the PSAT generally between the fall and spring, and they take care of reporting to the College Board and ordering materials (test books). Sometimes, your school will cover the costs of the test books.
You get the results of your PSAT 8/9 two months after you submit the test paper. PSAT 8/9 scores only correctly-answered questions, so you will not lose points if you give wrong answers or skip the question. Create a College Board account to see your online results. There you will see your general score and scores split across the sections and subsections. Each score is measured against the benchmarks that show your readiness for college. Red zones tell you about the skills you need to improve and, luckily, the College Board advises you on how to improve them.
To compare your score with that of all 8th or 9th-grade students across the nation, look at the percentiles. For example, the 59th percentile means that you perform better or as well as 59% of your graders who also took PSAT.
An average PSAT 8/9 score in 2021 is 490 for Math and 510 – 520 points for EBRW. A good PSAT 8/9 score depends on the competition among the students and your university acceptance rate. 75th percentile can be considered good (with 1150 – 1160 total marks), while 90th and higher percentile would be an outstanding result (with 1290 score).
In terms of comparing your PSAT 8/9 results to those of SAT, be advised that each section in your PSAT 8/9 ranges from 120 to 720 scores, while the SAT numbers are equal to 200 – 800. Test and Cross-Test marks of PSAT 8/9 vary from 6 to 36 points, and the SAT scale is 10 – 40. The Subscores are the same in the two tests, and they range from 1 to 15.
PSAT 10: Purpose, Content, Structure (Scores) and Timing, Schedule, and Results
PSAT 10 is created for 10th-grade students of high school. This second test (in the College Board sequence of multiple-choice institutionalized tests) analyzes your college readiness and strong points. Besides, it is a great option to get yourself prepared for the college-entering SAT. With the PSAT10, you can not be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. For this purpose, you can only pass the PSAT/NMSQT option (read below).
The Reading section questions expect you to restate directly-stated ideas and be ready to read between the lines. The Writing and Language section may ask you to correct a chart’s interpretation, attentively read a single sentence or the whole passage. The Math test evaluates your accuracy, efficiency, strategy, and ability to reorganize the given data for solving problems. PSAT 10 does not include an Essay, unlike the SAT.
Structure (Scores) and Timing
The total score of the PSAT 10 also consists of the two scores you get for Math and EBRW sections. You can get from 160 to 760 points in each section, which results in 320 – 1520 points in total. This test also shows you additional scores: test, cross-test, and subscores, that analyze the general data and break it down into smaller sections.
You will have 47 questions concerning reading, 44 questions about writing, and 48 math questions. The standard testing time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with two 5-minute breaks in addition to that time.
For the Math section, you will have 48 questions, 31 of which will be multiple-choice ones where you can use a calculator. For this part, you are allowed 45 minutes. However, you will spend 25 minutes on grid-in responses, and calculator use is prohibited.
Contact your school coordinator to check the PSAT10 dates, though this test is typically arranged in the spring. Your school may pay for the necessary materials – test books, which you submit to them as the test finishes.
You can get your PSAT10 scores, usually between 4 and 6 weeks after you submit your test answers. The College Board counts only the positive answers, so the wrong or skipped questions will not make you lose marks. If you register on the College Board site, you can access your results online with additional information like benchmarks and your position in various breakdowns.
You will see three zones marked red, yellow, and green, representing areas of weaknesses and strengths for typical students. Your grade appears on the line and shows your performance in comparison to others. And, of course, this is the indicator of how well you are prepared for college-entering SAT. Whether you need to strengthen your knowledge or exceed the benchmark, the College Board advises you what to do next to get the best of your performance. The percentile will help you identify where you actually are comparing to all 10th-grade students who took the PSAT10 this year.
An average (50 percentile) PSAT10 score in 2021 is 940-970 in total, while the good (75 percentile) is equal to 1070 grades. Excellent scores go up to 1340-1370 out of 1520. The details about the split of these numbers across the Math and EBRW sections are available on the College Board site.
As for interpreting your PSAT10 results against the future SAT, the total PSAT10 score range is slightly lower than that of the SAT: 320- 1520 and 400 – 1600, accordingly. The Test and Cross-Test scales range from 8 to 38 in PSAT10 and 10-40 in SAT. The Subscores scale remains the same in both tests: from 1 to 15 points.
PSAT/ NMSQT: Purpose, Content, Structure (Scores) and Timing, Schedule, and Results
The PSAT/NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. In terms of the scholarship, this test can only be attempted by juniors as only 11th-grade students can apply for the scholarship program. And, of course, the PSAT/NMQST is another step to test yourself before the SAT.
Content, Structure (Scores), Timing, and Results
PSAT/NMQST content, structure (scores), timing, and results are identical to those of PSAT10 described above.
Schools arrange the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall.
There are four scholarships offered for the students in the US:
- National Merit $2500 Scholarships
- Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships
- Corporate-sponsored Special Scholarships
- College-sponsored Merit Scholarships
Each of these types of scholarships has its own criteria and qualification process, which may change from year to year. Your PSAT/NMSQT pass rate is one of the obligatory requirements to apply for any scholarship, and this rate is in the top 1%: 1440 – 1520 with a 99+ percentile.
Main Differences of the PSAT 8/9, PSAT10, and PSAT/NMSQT
Let’s begin from the end: the two differences between the PSAT10 and the PSAT/NMSQT is that the first is held in the spring, while the NMSQT one is arranged in the fall. And secondly, only the PSAT/NMSQT will allow juniors to apply for various scholarships.
The PSAT10 is 20 minutes longer than PSAT 8/9, has 19 questions more, and those questions are more profound. You can take the PSAT10 once – at the end of your 10th grade (in the spring), while PSAT/NMSQT would be available for you at the beginning of your 10th grade (in the fall) and at the beginning of your 11th grade (in the fall). So, the most effective sequence is:
8th grade (between the fall and the spring) – PSAT 8/9
9th grade (between the fall and the spring) – PSAT 8/9
10th grade (in the fall) – PSAT/NMSQT (with no possibility to qualify for scholarships)
10th grade (in the spring) – PSAT10
11th grade (in the fall) – PSAT/NMSQT (including qualification for scholarships)
PSAT10 (PSAT/NMSQT) and SAT Differences
While all the PSAT only give you an understanding of your skills and prepare you for the college entering SAT.
The Reading section tests how well you can use words in context and your command of evidence. In addition to these, the Writing and Language section considers how you express your ideas, structure sentences, and use language and punctuation. The Math questions evaluate your problem-solving and data analysis skills. There are additional topics in math tested. So, the overall content of the SAT is more comprehensive.
Structure (Scores) and Timing
The structure of the SAT is similar to that of PSAT. SAT scores range from 400 to 1600, while the PSAT ones are 320 – 1520. What makes the SAT totally different from PSAT is its Essay section; however, the essay score does not impact your total SAT result. Not every college requires this assignment, so the essay is optional.
SAT lasts 3 hours plus 15 minutes of breaks, while the PSAT is 2 hours 45 minutes long with 10 minutes of additional breaking time. For the essay, you have an additional 50 minutes.
Students can take the SAT up to seven times a year in the US, and you can submit as many SATs as you wish. Usually, students take the SAT exam twice: in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year.
The SAT scores are ready after 2 – 4 weeks after submitting the paper, while the PSAT results takes around two weeks longer. Many colleges accept the best of your SAT result as often students make two or three attempts, and every next is better than the previous.
How to Convert PSAT to SAT
Except for finding out your strong points and those skills that need to be improved after your PSAT10 or PSAT/NMSQT results, you are curious how many grades you would get if you attempted the SAT. The general formula changes, so we have converted all the results for your convenience in the table below.