PSAT FAQs

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Questions about the Test

Registration Questions

Score Questions

Test Day Questions



Questions about the Test

    What is the PSAT?

    The PSAT is a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT. It also gives you a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programs and to gain access to college and career planning tools.

    The most common reasons for taking the PSAT/NMSQT are to:

    • Receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses on skills necessary for college study. You can then focus your preparation on those areas that could most benefit from additional study or practice.
    • See how your performance on an admissions test might compare with that of others applying to college.
    • Enter the competition for scholarships from NMSC (Juniors only).
    • Help prepare for the SAT. You can become familiar with the kinds of questions and the exact directions you will see on the SAT.
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    What is the format of the test?

    The test is divided into five sections, each of which falls into one of three topics: Reading, Math, or Writing.

    The first and third sections of the test are Reading, the second and fourth are Math, and the final section is Writing. Unlike the SAT, there is no experimental section and no Essay.

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    How long is the test?

    The timings for both the standard PSAT and the extended-time PSAT are shown in the table below.

    Section(s) Standard Extended Time
    Reading Sections (1 and 3) 25 minutes apiece 38 minutes apiece
    Math Sections (2 and 4) 25 minutes apiece 38 minutes apiece
    Writing Section (5) 30 minutes 45 minutes
    Total Time 2 hours, 10 minutes 3 hours, 15 minutes
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Registration Questions

    When is the PSAT given?

    High schools administer the PSAT/NMSQT on a Wednesday or Saturday in October . 

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    How do I register for the PSAT?

    You must sign up for the test at your high school. The test is administered by high schools, not through testing centers. Online registration for the PSAT is not available. If you want to take the PSAT, contact your own high school counselor to find about registering for the tests, paying test fees, and learning the correct date, time, and location at which your school will give the test.

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    How much does it cost to register for the PSAT?

    The fee for the PSAT/NMSQT is $14. (Note: Schools sometimes charge an additional fee to cover administrative costs.) The College Board makes fee waivers available to schools for eleventh-grade students from low-income families who can't afford the test fee. See your counselor for more information about fee waivers.

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    How can I get extended time on the PSAT?

    Obtaining extended time for the PSAT is a multi-step process. If you want extended time, you should begin by talking to your school counselor. Additional information can be found on the College Board PSAT Accommodations page.

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Score Questions

    How is the PSAT scored?

    There are three sections on the test: Reading, Math, and Writing. For each section, the student will be given a score from 20 to 80. These section scores will then be combined to give the composite score, which ranges from 60 to 240. These are known as the scaled scores.

    The scaled scores are based on the raw scores for each section. The raw score for a section is calculated by taking the number of correct answers and subtracting one quarter of the number of incorrect answers. This score will then be compared to those of other test takers to obtain the scaled score.

    There are a couple of things to take note of. First, unlike the SAT, the PSAT contains no essay, so the Writing score is based solely on multiple choice Writing questions. Also, there are Math section questions called "Student-Produced Response Questions" which do not count against the student if answered incorrectly.

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    What is the average PSAT score?

    Up-to-date information on the most recent average PSAT scores can be found on this website.

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    When will I get my scores back?

    Score reports are mailed to your high school in December. Each school makes its own decisions on how and when to distribute the scores. Scores are not available via phone or online.

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Test Day Questions

    What should I bring to the test?

    There are several things you MUST bring with you to the test:

    • Two No. 2 pencils and a soft eraser (pens and mechanical pencils are not permitted)
    • An acceptable calculator (information about acceptable calculators is available here)

    In addition to these required items, you should also bring:

    • Your social security number (optional)
    • Email address (optional). Students can opt to receive information about educational opportunities and financial aid via email from colleges, universities, some scholarship programs, College Board programs, and nonprofit organizations whose mission and offerings supplement the path to higher education.
    • A watch without an audible alarm (or one that is set to silent)
    • Extra batteries for your calculator and, if possible, a backup calculator
    • A bag or backpack to carry all of these things in
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    What should I NOT bring to the test?

    The following items are not allowed, and should be left in the car or at home:

    • Cell phones, pagers, and other personal electronic devices (except for watches)
    • Scratch paper (there is plenty of room on the test for your scratch work)
    • Any notes or books
    • A compass, protractor, ruler, or other measuring or drafting device
    • Highlighters, pens, mechanical pencils, and colored pencils
    • Portable listening or recording devices
    • Cameras or video cameras
    • Stop watches, clocks, or watches with audible alarms
    • Food and beverages, including bottled water, unless approved for medical reasons
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