If you’re a high school student ready to start thinking about college, you’ve probably already heard about the PSAT vs the SAT. But what’s the difference between these tests? Let’s go over what these two different tests accomplish for prospective college students.
What are they?
The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a standardized test that measures college readiness. It’s often included in college applications to prove a student is qualified for acceptance. The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) is a slightly easier and shorter version of the SAT. Many use the PSAT as a check-in to determine how a student will score on the actual SAT. Schools often require students to take the PSAT for this reason.
People also take the PSAT to determine if they qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Only 3% of test-takers will receive National Merit recognition, and of those recipients, only one-third will reach the level of Semifinalist. The majority of those who accomplish this can receive a full ride to select universities. The National Merit Scholarship Competition also allows for alternate entry. This is for students who, due to extenuating circumstances, cannot take their regularly scheduled PSAT. In these cases, students must submit an alternate entry request no later than April 1st following the missed test.
When are they?
The SAT schedules tests throughout the year. There are seven national test dates a year that any student can sign up for. There are also School Day tests on alternative dates only at participating high schools. However, the PSAT only happens in October on a date chosen by your local high school. Some schools may alternatively offer the exam in January as a make-up exam date. While you can prepare to take the SAT multiple times in the same year, you can’t do the same with PSAT. Students attempting to qualify for National Merit may only take the PSAT once their junior year. If you’re planning on qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship, make sure you don’t wait to get started with prep!
How are they scored?
Like the SAT, the PSAT also has two sections: Math and Evidence-based Reading and Writing. However, while a perfect SAT score is 1600, you can only get a 1520 max on the PSAT. The sections in the PSAT are each scored from 160-760. The PSAT vs the SAT also have different lengths. The PSAT exam is 15 minutes shorter. There are also fewer questions on the PSAT.