What is the PSAT/NMSQT?

Rashi Jindani
Rashi Jindani

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It is always a good idea to know what a test is before you take it. Since PSAT season is in full swing, I thought it would be a good idea to explain what the point of this test is supposed to be. And yes, PSAT/NMSQT refers to just one test.

What do the acronyms mean?

PSAT stands for Preliminary SAT and NMSQT means National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. If you do well on the PSAT you become eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. That’s why PSAT and NMSQT go together!

Do colleges see PSAT scores?

No, colleges do not see the PSAT score. No one is trying to trick you, it is true. Colleges have enough to evaluate, they do not try to sneak a peek at PSAT scores.

Then why take the PSAT?


the PSAT is supposed to give you an idea of how you are going to preform on the SAT. It gives you a measure of how much you will need to study. It also exposes you to a much shorter, but similar testing environment. It replicates high stakes testing without actually being high stakes (technically).


you should also take the PSAT to at least try to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. That does look good on college applications and may end up getting you a little extra money for college. A lot of schools offer the PSAT, often for free, so there is no point in not going. But do not go with the expectation that you will get a scholarship. It is very hard to be a National Merit Scholar, it is awarded to a very small population of the students that take the PSAT.

Third (and finally)…

Only juniors can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. So if you are a freshman or sophomore, you can take the PSAT to purely practice for the SAT or prepare for your junior year PSAT, when it matters.

What is the structure of the PSAT?

The PSAT is a shorter version of the SAT, as it is focused on preparing students for the longer, high stakes test.

The PSAT has three sections:

  1. Writing and Language
    1. 35 minutes, 44 questions
    2. Tests grammar and usage
  2. Reading
    1. 60 minutes, 47 questions
    2. Comprehension and vocabulary
  3. Math:
    1. 45 minute calculator optional section
    2. 25 minute no calculator section
    3. 47 total questions
    4. Includes a range of mathematical concepts such as: Elementary Algebra, Numbers and Operations, Functions, Statistics and Probability, Geometry and Measurement

You can find practice PSATs all over the internet, but here are some from the Collegeboard.

Questions? Let us know!