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The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is also called the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). The test is designed to help students practice for the SAT. It's also used to determine the test-taker's eligibility for scholarships awarded by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Colleges don't use the results of this test to determine you eligibility for admission.

The PSAT is offered on one of two days in October (usually Tuesday or Saturday) at individual sites across the nation. Most students take this test in their junior year of high school. At the end of your sophomore year or immediately when you begin your junior year, be sure to ask your guidance counselor or grade advisor when your school is offering the test. You should be automatically registered, but it's better to make sure.

If you are a home-schooled student, you should register for the PSAT well before the test dates in mid-October. Your scores will be sent directly to your home. Consult your local high school for information about PSAT registration, or directly contact:

    PSAT/NMSQT
    P.O.Box 6720
    Princeton, NJ 08541-6720
    www.collegeboard.org
The substance of the PSAT is virtually identical to that of the SAT - not easier, not harder. The PSAT has fewer sections than the SAT, but the question types are exactly the same - analogies, sentence completions, critical reading, multiple-choice math, quantitative comparisons, and grid-ins. So, practicing at this Web site also improves your PSAT skills.

The only difference between the two tests is that the PSAT has recently added a 30-minute section to test your writing skills. This section includes questions that ask you to indentify errors in sentences, rephrase sentences to make the meaning clearer, and revise paragraphs to improve sentence structure and organization. If is the SAT is your main concern, you shouldn't spend much time practicing this section.

Your PSAT scores are computed to form a selection index; your final selection index is compared to that of every other junior test-takers in the state to determine your eligibility for National Merit Recognition. If your selection index places you in roughly the top 5 percent in your state, you will receive a National Merit Letter of Commendation and become a "commended scholar." This is an impressive academic honor that you should indicate on your college application.

If your selection index places you in roughly the top 1 percent in your state, you will become a National Semi-Finalist, an even more impressive feat. If you become a semi-finalist, you need to submit an application to the NMSC to qualify to become a finalist and receive scholarships. Ultimately, candidates are awarded scholarships by the NMSC, colleges, and universities based on scores, academic records, and other criteria.

The PSAT requires 2 hours and 10 minutes and includes 5 sections:

  • Two 25-minute verbal sections
  • Two 25-minute math sections
  • One 30-minute writing skills section
General speaking, You should take the PSAT for one or more of the following purposes:
  1. Qualifying for scholarship sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
  2. Comparing yourself with other college-bound students around the country ans state.
  3. Finding out what the SAT is like, and practicing your SAT test skills.
  4. Assessing your verbal, math and writing skills.
  5. Forecasting your scores on the SAT I and the SAT II: Writing.
  6. Participating in the Student Search Service to get mail from colleges.
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