The Preliminary SAT (PSAT), which is also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), is a standardized exam that is designed to help students prepare for the SAT Reasoning Test. In addition, the PSAT helps such scholarship organizations as the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) determine if an individual meets the requirements for their merit-based scholarships. The exam, which is designed and administered by the College Board, is split into three main sections, and each section tests a different area of knowledge. These three sections mirror the sections on the SAT and include a mathematics section, a critical reading section, and a writing section. The mathematics section requires an individual to answer 10 grid-in questions (the grid-in questions are basically fill-in-the-blank questions, but you have to fill in a blank and color in circles on an answer key) and 28 multiple-choice questions that cover topics related to basic algebra, basic arithmetic, geometry, probability, and statistics. The critical reading section is comprised of 13 multiple-choice questions that require a test taker to choose the vocabulary word that correctly completes the sentence, as well as 35 multiple-choice questions for which testers must read and analyze a passage. The writing section requires students to answer 5 multiple-choice questions in which they must identify the option that best corrects a paragraph, 14 multiple-choice questions in which they must identify the error in a sentence, and 20 multiple-choice questions in which they must identify the option that best corrects a sentence. The PSAT does not have an essay section.
In most cases, you will be required to take the PSAT before you apply for a national merit-based scholarship because a national merit-based scholarship program will typically use your scores from the PSAT to determine if you are eligible for any scholarships they offer. It is important to note, however, that the PSAT is not required for every scholarship and that there are some scholarship programs that may require you to take other exams in addition to or instead of the PSAT. It is also important to note that the questions on the PSAT are not as difficult as the questions on the actual SAT Reasoning Test, but the exam itself can still be relatively difficult because an individual applying for a scholarship may be required to take the exam before he or she has completed courses covering all of the material that the exam encompasses. In fact, the average exam-taker will choose the correct answer on the PSAT only around 50% to 60% of the time.
The PSAT is scored on a scale, and you will receive a score on a scale of 20-80 for each section of the exam and a combined score on a scale of 60-240 for the entire exam. This score is known as the selection index because it is typically used to determine if an individual is eligible for a scholarship. The exact PSAT score that an individual must achieve in order to receive a merit-based scholarship can vary considerably from program to program, but the selection index score that a student must have to apply for a merit-based scholarship for an accounting school is typically between 140 and 200. It is extremely important to note that an individual’s PSAT score will allow the individual only to apply for a scholarship. It does not guarantee an individual a scholarship.