The Preliminary SAT (PSAT)

PSAT is an exam that assesses problem-solving skills and subject matter learned in high school in three areas: Critical Reading, Math and Writing.

The PSAT and the SAT are almost identical. The PSAT is fifteen minutes shorter than the SAT, doesn't include an essay, and is scored on a slightly different scale. Otherwise, the PSAT has the same question types and tests the same knowledge areas as the SAT.

The exam comes in three forms: the PSAT 8/9, the PSAT/NMSQT and the PSAT 10. The PSAT 10 is the same test as the PSAT/NMSQT, though students take these exams at different times of year.

The PSAT 8/9 is designated for students in the eighth and ninth grades and the PSAT 10 is for sophomores. The PSAT/NMSQT stands for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which students take as a sophomore or junior. High enough marks on the PSAT/NMSQT as a junior can help a student land a National Merit Scholarship.

The length varies by test, with 2 hours and 25 minutes for the PSAT 8/9 and two hours and 45 minutes for the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT.

How Is the PSAT Timed?

For the PSAT 8/9, the test is broken down into 55 minutes for reading, 30 minutes for writing and language, and 60 minutes for math, according to the College Board website. Across those components, there are 42 questions or tasks for reading, 40 for writing and language, and 38 for math.

On the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT, 60 minutes is allotted for reading, 35 for writing and language, and 70 for math. These test-takers will see 47 questions or tasks in reading, 44 in writing and language, and 48 in math.

How Is the PSAT Scored?

All versions of the PSAT are scored based on two sections: evidence-based reading and writing, and math.

PSAT SectionOrder on TestTime Allotted# of Questions
Reading160 mins47
Writing and Language235 mins44
Math No Calculator325 mins17
Math Calculator445 mins31

On the PSAT, you start off with three raw scores, one each for Reading, Writing, and Math. A raw score is equal to the number of questions you answered correctly. You do not lose any points for incorrect answers!

Your raw scores for each section are then converted into test scores on a scale of 8-38 through a special equating process described in our guide to PSAT scoring.

It should also be noted here that these test scores, when combined and multiplied by 2, give you your Selection Index score, which the NMSC uses to determine eligibility for the National Merit competition.

Your Math test score is multiplied by 20 to give you a scaled Math score out of 760. Similarly, your Reading and Writing scores are combined and multiplied by 10 to give you a single scaled EBRW score (also out of 760).

In addition to section scores, you’ll be given sub scores and cross-test scores. These scores are the same as those on the SAT and indicate your mastery of specific skills. Sub scores have a score range of 1-15, whereas cross-test scores have a score range of 8-38.


Here is a list of the seven sub scores on the PSAT test:

Command of Evidence
Words in Context
Expression of Ideas
Standard English Conventions
Heart of Algebra
Problem Solving and Data Analysis
Passport to Advanced Math


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