Since 2001, parents have asked us, “What is the PSAT, and what is its importance?” As the PSAT has changed, so has our answer. To best understand what the PSAT means for you and your student, it’s important to consider the PSAT’s past, present, and future.
The PSAT was first administered in 1971. Since its inception, the PSAT has gone through three major revisions in content, format, and scoring: 1997, 2005, and 2015. The 2015 redesign also included the creation of the PSAT 8/9, a shortened version of the PSAT for eighth and ninth graders.
The PSAT is administered several times throughout the school year, but when the test is used to determine eligibility for National Merit scholarships, it is called the PSAT/NMSQT. All forms of the PSAT (PSAT, PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 8/9) are a preliminary version of the SAT.
While PSAT scores don’t directly contribute to college admissions decisions, success on the PSAT can elevate the competitive candidacy of the student or provide scholarship funding. The PSAT is required for a student to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
There are three types of Merit Scholarships a student could be awarded.
- National Merit $2,500 Scholarship: Single payment scholarships awarded on a state representational basis
- Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship Award: Winners selected from finalists that are either: 1) finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage, 2) children of employees or members, 3) residents of a community where a company operates
- College-sponsored Merit Scholarship Award: Winners selected from finalists that have been accepted and previously designated that college or university as their first choice. These awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study
PSAT: Current Structure
The current PSAT is a paper-and-pencil test administered through a student’s school. A calculator can be used for a portion of the Math section, but not the entire test. The total test time is two hours and 45 minutes across all sections, not including breaks.
Most students take the PSAT during the fall of 10th grade and the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall of 11th grade. Only 11th grade students are eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Some schools may choose to provide the PSAT in the spring of 10th grade rather than the fall.
In 2022, the tentative test dates are October 12, October 15, and October 25. Schools determine the specific date, so contact your school’s principal’s office or college counselor for more information. For more on the current format of the PSAT, visit our website at academicapproach.com.
The SAT and PSAT will be changing for the Class of 2025. Beginning in the fall of 2023, the PSAT will be a fully-digital exam taken on student-owned or school-owned devices. Just like the new SAT, the new PSAT will be adaptive, which means each section (Reading and Writing; Math) will be divided into two separate modules (Module 1; Module 2). Performance on Module 1 will determine Module 2’s set of questions and overall difficulty.
The PSAT will also now have the same timing, number of questions, average time per question, calculator use, and question formats as the new SAT, making the two tests more similar.
PSAT: Next Steps
For the Class of 2024, PSAT results will be returned in December. Contact us for a complimentary analysis of these results. We’ll help your student develop a plan for SAT (or ACT) growth based on their PSAT results that will help your student succeed.
The Class of 2025 (and beyond) will have a brand-new test-taking experience. Follow our Digital SAT page at academicapproach.com/digitalsat/ and sign up to take advantage of our new digital curriculum, which will help prepare your student for the new PSAT and SAT.
For more information, visit academicapproach.com/hinsdaleliving or call 630-454-9873.