The Parents Guide to PSAT/NMSQT
The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) is structured similarly to the SAT®, has the same sections and timing, and measures the same Reading and Writing and Math skills students learn in the classroom—the knowledge and skills your child needs to succeed in college and career. See what’s on the PSAT/NMSQT test.
Beginning in fall 2023, the PSAT/NMSQT is going digital. The SAT will follow in spring 2024. Find out what to expect.
Why the PSAT/NMSQT Is Important
Taking the PSAT/NMSQT is more than just good practice for the SAT, and the scores are more than just a number. With your child’s results, they can:
- See where they are and set a target: You’ll get details on the exact skills and knowledge they need to focus on, while they have plenty of time to improve. If they’ve taken the PSAT 8/9 or PSAT 10, they’ll also see how much progress they’ve made between the tests. They can also use their score from the PSAT/NMSQT, along with some research about their college and career goals, to set their own personal target SAT score. Historically, students who took the PSAT/NMSQT scored better on the SAT, on average, than those who didn’t take the test.
- Find out about their AP Potential: Students who take an AP® course are better positioned to succeed in college. Your child may not realize that they’re ready to take college level courses and that they have the potential to succeed. Using their personalized view of AP Potential , found in their score report, they’ll get recommendations for courses that may be a good fit for them.
- Enter the National Merit Scholarship Program: Students who take the PSAT/NMSQT and meet other program entry requirements specified in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide will enter the National Merit® Scholarship Program, an academic competition for recognition and scholarships conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC®) Visit NMSC’s website at www.nationalmerit.org for more information..
- Help pay for college: Taking the PSAT/NMSQT gives your child the chance to access over $300 million in other scholarship opportunities.
- Connect to their future: When your child takes the PSAT/NMSQT, they’ll be asked for their mobile phone number so they can download the free BigFuture School™ mobile app and have their PSAT/NMSQT scores delivered right to their phone. They’ll get customized career information and guidance about planning and paying for college. Depending on their school or district, they can use the Connections feature, which lets them here from nonprofit colleges, scholarships and educational organizations interested in them—without having to share any personal information.
- The 2023 PSAT/NMSQT will be given throughout the month of October. Schools may offer the test to different groups of students during the month.
- The only way your child can sign up for the PSAT/NMSQT is through their school—not through College Board. Each school's signup process differs, so your child should talk to their school counselor to learn more.
- Some students pay a small fee to take the PSAT/NMSQT, but many students have test-related fees covered in full or in part by their school. If your child qualifies for a PSAT/NMSQT fee waiver, they test for free. For more information, talk to your child's school counselor.
- Homeschooled students can sign up and take the test at a local school.
- We never send PSAT/NMSQT scores to colleges.
How to Prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT
The best way your child can prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT is to pay attention in their high school classes and study the course material. Students who do well in school are likely to do well on the PSAT/NMSQT.
To become familiar with the test and its format, students can sign into the Bluebook™ testing app and head to the Practice and Prepare section. They can explore the tools and features of the app and try a few sample questions in the test preview or take a full-length practice test. Then, they can review their results at mypractice.collegeboard.org. Once they know what knowledge and skills they need to work on, they can use Official digital SAT Prep on Khan Academy. It's a free, interactive study tool that provides personalized practice resources that focuses on exactly what your child needs to stay on track for college and career.
PSAT/NMSQT scores are available in November. In addition to getting direct access to their scores in the BigFuture School mobile app, your child will get a pdf score report from their school (if they don’t, they can ask their school counselor for it). And they can log intoinsights about their scores and explore Big Future. their personal College Board account at studentscores.collegeboard.org to get additional
Scores range from 320 to 1520 and are on the same score scale as the SAT. This means that a score of 1100 on the PSAT/NMSQT is equivalent to a score of 1100 on the SAT. The only difference is that SAT scores range from 400 to 1600, because the difficulty level of the questions is higher than on the PSAT/NMSQT.
Students also receive a PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index score, which National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses as an initial screen of students to the National Merit Scholarship Program. The Selection Index score is calculated from the Reading and Writing and Math section scores and ranges from 48 to 228.
Who Sees PSAT/NMSQT Scores
We don't send PSAT/NMSQT scores to colleges. We only send your child’s PSAT/NMSQT score to:
- Their school (always), school district (often), and state (often)
- National Merit Scholarship Corporation
- Select scholarship and recognition programs (your child may opt out of)
If you want to log in yourself to see your child's score report, use the email and password your child used when they set up their College Board online account.
Once your child gets their score report, they should sit down with you and go over it. That way, you both know what to focus on to be ready for college.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many times can a student take the PSAT/NMSQT?
Most students take the PSAT/NMSQT once—in 11th grade. Some schools also offer it to students in 10th grade. They can take it only once per school year. Some scholarship programs only look at the junior year PSAT/NMSQT score.
Can ninth graders take the PSAT/NMSQT?
Yes, but only certain students (typically students in 11th grade) are eligible to enter the National Merit Scholarship Program, as described in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide. The PSAT/NMSQT is designed to be grade appropriate for 10th and 11th graders.
Some schools offer the PSAT 8/9, which tests the same skills as the PSAT/NMSQT, but in ways that are appropriate for earlier grade levels. Check with your child's school counselor to see if your school offers the PSAT 8/9.
Does the PSAT/NMSQT have an essay?
No, the PSAT/NMSQT does not have an essay.