Get Your PSAT Practice Test
Often called the “preliminary” SAT test, the PSAT/NMSQT is a standardized test typically taken in the 10th grade. The “NMSQT” portion of its full name refers to the National Merit Qualifying Scholarship Test, which puts test-takers into the running for one of many National Merit Scholarships.
The PSAT is actually divided now into two tests: PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10. The test is similar in formal, style and length, but only the PSAT/NMSQT qualifies you for the scholarship. The “NMSQT” test is only given in the fall.
Inside the PSAT: What’s on the Test
The PSAT tests you on what you’ve learned in high school so far, and on how ready you may be for college-level thinking. The test takers don’t assume you’re completely ready for college yet; after all, you’re probably in 10th grade, still two years away from college. The preliminary test gives you a good indication of what you may need to work harder on in order to prepare adequately for college and what you’re already doing well on.
The test contains three sections:
- Reading (Evidence-Based Reading)
- Writing and Language Arts
The entire test takes 2 hours and 45 minutes, with time included for breaks.
The Evidence-Based Reading Test takes about an hour. It includes passages from World Literature, Social Studies, History, and Science. All of the information that you need to answer the questions is included in the passage itself. You’re being tested on how carefully you read the materials and how well you can think logically and draw conclusions based on the evidence provided.
The Writing and Language Arts portion of the test takes 35 minutes and contains all multiple-choice questions. You’ll be tested on your ability to use proper grammar, punctuation and other technical aspects of the English language in writing.
The Math section is the longest section of the test. It includes 16 algebra questions, 13 data analysis and problem-solving questions, 16 advanced math questions, and 2 additional topics. You’ll be allowed to use a calculator for 45 minutes and for specific questions. You’ll be restricted from using calculators for some portions of the test, but scrap paper will be provided.
Preparing for the PSAT
There are several ways to prepare for the PSAT. The College Board, makers of the test, will tell you to do challenging schoolwork, which is all well and good but probably doesn’t make you feel more confident about test day.
The best way to get over those pre-test jitters is to take as many free PSAT practice tests as you can. Practice tests help you understand the instructions for each section. When you learn the instructions, you won’t have to spend a lot of time reading them on test day – you can jump right in!
Practice tests will also help you spot particularly troublesome areas. For example, if you sail right through algebra but get stuck on data analysis, you should probably spend more time on data analysis. Taking practice tests can help you spot those areas more easily than trying to figure it out on your own.
Free PSAT Practice Test
If you’re ready to practice the PSAT now, you can find free PSAT practice test online at the following websites:
- The College Board: The test makers offer sample questions as well as a free full-length practice test. They also include links to the Khan Academy, a test prep resource available to anyone taking the PSAT.
- Kaplan: Kaplan offers free PSAT practice tests and review session. You have to register for them via the Kaptest website.
- The Princeton Review: The Princeton Review offers one free PSAT practice test online.
- 4Tests: This site features Barrons practice tests, and offers 16 free questions for your to practice with online.
The Bottom Line on the PSAT
Students often get nervous about taking the PSAT, and that’s understandable. After all, it means you’re starting on the road to college, and that can be both scary and exciting.
But keep in mind that the PSAT is just one of many signposts on the road to college. College admissions directors look at many things when deciding who will be part of their freshman class. They look at your SAT and ACT scores, but they also look at your high school transcript, your recommendation letters, essays, and your extracurricular activities. Many things go into your application and one test won’t make or break your future.
Practicing for the PSAT can help you gain confidence and familiarity with the test. It can put you in the running for a National Merit Scholarship, which is a nice thing to have to offset some of the high cost of college. Start practicing early and often and do your very best. We have free PSAT practice tests to help!