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The PSAT is a two-hour test given once a year in October. Many students take the PSAT, not only as preparation for the SAT taken in senior year and widely used as a major criterion for college admissions, but also to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

As with the SAT, the PSAT has separate math and verbal sections and a third section testing English grammar and usage. Each subject is scored on a scale of 20 to 80 and these scores are combined to create the National Merit Scholarship selection index.

Almost all students take the PSAT during their junior year, but many students take the PSAT when they are sophomores to get the feel of the test. However, it is only the scores from the PSAT taken in your junior year that are considered for the National Merit Scholarship competition.

This scholarship competition awards approximately 8,200scholarships annually. The selection process starts with the choosing of National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists and Commended Scholars. Cutoffs vary from state to state but typically Semi-Finalists score in the top one percent of students in their state and Commended Scholars between the top one to four percent. Most of the approximately 16,000 Semi-Finalists become Finalists, and half of those ultimately receive National Merit Scholarships.

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

1.To help prepare for the SAT and assess what areas you need to improve on, such as by taking a New Hope test prep course. Taking the PSAT can help you become familiar with the types of questions you will see on the SAT and the nature of the reading material.

2.To predict how your performance on the SAT might compare to that of others applying to college.

3.To enter competition for scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (grade 11).

4.To receive information from colleges when you check "yes" to Student Search Service.

♦ The PSAT Format

The PSAT is a standardized test that gives students a sense of the content of the SAT. Content-wise, the only difference between the PSAT and the SAT is that the SAT additionally has an essay section. The PSAT is given during students’ Junior year but some high schools also offer it to their sophomore and even Freshmen students. Additionally, the PSAT serves as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program

The PSAT tests students in the areas of critical reading, math and writing. The test has five sections: two critical reading sections, two math sections, and one writing section. Total time for the test is two hours and ten minutes. The format of the test is as follows:

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