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Exam information

What you need to know about the PSAT/NMSQT Exam

The PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, serves a dual purpose for high school students in the United States. Primarily taken by juniors (11th graders), with some sophomores (10th graders) also participating, this standardized test is both a preparatory step for the SAT and a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The PSAT/NMSQT tests students in Evidence-Based Reading, Writing, and Math, providing a complete evaluation of essential college and career skills. The test includes various types of questions and has a scoring range from 320 to 1520. It is structured to give detailed feedback, helping students understand their strengths and areas for improvement. Notably, there is no penalty for wrong answers, encouraging students to attempt all questions without the fear of losing points for guessing.

In contrast, the PSAT 10, although similar in content and structure to the PSAT/NMSQT, caters specifically to sophomores (10th graders). This test is administered during a broader window in the spring, typically from February to April. The PSAT 10’s primary function is to serve as a practice test for the SAT, without the added pressure of qualifying for scholarships. Unlike the PSAT/NMSQT, the PSAT 10 does not play a role in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Nevertheless, it still provides valuable insights and feedback on the same scale as the PSAT/NMSQT, aiding students in their preparation for future standardized tests.

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Exam facts

Answers to all your questions about the PSAT/NMSQT Exam

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What are the costs?

The basic cost of the PSAT/NMSQT exam is $18. Some schools may charge an extra fee to cover their administration costs. Other schools cover the entire cost for all eligible students. School counselors can provide information about fees and fee waivers.

What should I bring?

  • an approved fully charge device with the BlueBook installed

  • a device charger

  • a pencil or pen

  • an approved calculator

  • current valid school or government-issued photo ID (only if student is taking the test at a school other than his/her school of attendance or if the student is home-schooled)

  • a drink and snack for break time

Do not bring:

  • compass, protractor, ruler

  • any books, including dictionaries

  • any papers or other writing instruments (scratch paper will be provided)

  • any other electronic devices

  • headphones or earbuds

  • external keyboards for laptops (these are ok if using an iPad)

  • stylus pens

  • smartwatches (analog watches are ok)

All cell phones must be turned off and placed beneath the desk. Noise made by a phone (or use of it, even during breaks) will cause the participant to be dismissed from the testing session, testing of that person canceled, and possible confiscation and content search of the phone.

What kind of job can I get?

Today, an increasing number of jobs require postsecondary (beyond high school) education to secure even an entry-level position. Most colleges require either the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) exam or the ACT (American College Test) exam scores as part of your application. The PSAT/NMSQT exam gives you important preliminary experience with these types of tests. Scores from this test can also aid in obtaining money to fund your education.

Am I eligible?

You must be a current 10th or 11th grade student, or home-schooled student studying at this grade level, to take the PSAT/NMSQT exam. School counselors will know registration deadlines.

Why does it matter?

Attending some sort of post-high school institution is rapidly becoming a necessity nowadays. College attendance can expand your future job opportunities exponentially and part of college acceptance will depend on your scores on a standardized test. The PSAT/NMSQT exam can prepare you to study for, and take, such tests as the SAT exam and ACT test. You will become familiar with test-taking procedures and strategies and learn your current strengths and weaknesses. As a result, you will be better prepared for tests that will impact your future educational opportunities. With your automatic entry into the National Merit Scholarship process through the PSAT/NMSQT exam, you will also begin to access the means to pay for your education.

What salary can I expect?

While going to college is no guarantee of a high-paying job in your future, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has established that the median yearly income for those with a Bachelor’s degree is 63% higher than those with only a high school diploma. So, attending college is a proactive way to protect your financial future and the PSAT/NMSQT exam is an important first step in the college admissions process.

When is it available?

The PSAT/NMSQT is offered to 10th and 11th graders in the fall, usually on two specific dates in late October and early November. The PSAT 10, exclusively for 10th graders, is administered in the spring. Both exams are scheduled and managed through schools, with students typically registering through their school counselors.

What are some Tips & Tricks

The following practices can help you make the best possible and accurate score on the PSAT/NMSQT exam.

Take advantage of appropriately challenging courses in school and read at every opportunity. Both of these will ensure you are getting maximum exposure to the skills you will need as you further your education and the background needed to score well on necessary standardized tests.

On the day of the test, be sure to:

  • Read all questions and answer choices carefully.

  • Skip harder questions and come back to them. Move quickly through the types of questions that do not require a lot of thought.

  • Make an effort to find a suitable answer for every question, especially if you can narrow it down to two choices. There is no penalty for guessing.

How much time is allowed?

The actual length of the PSAT/NMSQT exam is 2 hours and 14 minutes. There will also be time required to fill out personal information forms and to sign a document that certifies your adherence to a list of PSAT/NMSQT exam testing regulations. There is a list of testing regulations that you must sign before taking this test.

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