PSAT and How it can Help High School Students: The College Board

17 Jun

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), is a comprehensive, standardized assessment administered at schools on fixed dates each October that helps prepare students for the SAT.

The PSAT is an important step in a student’s path to university success. It assesses subject matter learned in high school and problem-solving skills in three areas: Critical reading skills, Math problem-solving skills, and Writing skills. Given the nature of the PSAT and topics covered in the test, it can be useful even for those students who don’t want to take the SAT, but are focusing on preparing for other similar multiple-choice standardized tests for admission into foreign or Indian universities.

Exam Structure and Scoring

The PSAT is very similar to the SAT, with a few differences. It does not have an essay component, and the duration of the test is only 2 hours 10 minutes, compared to 3 hours and 45 minutes for the SAT. The PSAT has 5 sections – 2 Math, 2 Critical Reading, and 1 Writing. The difficulty level of the test is slightly lower than the SAT. Scores for each section-type — critical reading, math, and writing — are on a 20–to–80 point scale. The highest possible total score is 240.

Benefits of the PSAT

• The PSAT Score Report provides a detailed skill breakdown and performance review, helping students identify their strength and weakness areas, and enabling them to adopt smarter and more effective strategies while preparing for SAT or other similar exams

• Offers excellent practice for the SAT. Research indicates that students who take PSAT score significantly higher in their SAT

• PSAT scores are not shared with universities, so it’s a no-stress exam

• It is less than a quarter of the price of the SAT, so it’s cost effective

• Gives students free access to online college planning resources and useful tools through My College QuickStart

• Students receive information from colleges when they check “yes” to Student Search Service

Preparation for PSAT

The PSAT can be used by students as a first-step diagnostic assessment to gauge where they stand. On the basis of their Score Report, students can determine how to prepare for SAT and other similar standardized tests.

The questions on the PSAT test knowledge and skills that are covered in high school. Hence, coaching or test preparation for the PSAT is not required or recommended.

When to Take the Test

It is beneficial for younger students to take the PSAT/NMSQT to get a head start on improving academic skills needed for success in college and beyond. Students take the PSAT in Grades 9, 10 or 11. Last year, more than half of all test-takers were in grade 10 or younger. Typically, Indian students take it in Grade 9 or 10, or both. * American citizens should be encouraged to take the PSAT in Grade 11 as it helps them become eligible for the NMSQT scholarship.

How to Register

The PSAT is administered by several high schools in India in the month of October. The US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) also administers the test at some of its centers. If you would like to take the PSAT, contact your high school counselor or principal for information about registering for the test, paying the test fee, and learning the correct date, time, and location of the test.

For information about registering at USIEF, visit by end-July or early-August.

For more information, visit

Lisa Jain College Board PictureLisa Jain is the Representative of The College Board in India. In her role, she works extensively with schools across India to support implementation of College Board programs. She also interacts directly with students and parents, educating them about how College Board’s programs and resources (such as SAT, AP, PSAT or Big Future) help in the college application and admission process.

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