what is the psat and why is it important

What is the PSAT–and 3 Reasons Why It’s Important

What is the PSAT? Isn’t that just like the SAT? What’s the difference? Why do I need to take both?

These are probably just a few of the questions running through your mind. And trust me– I get it. There are so many tests that you need to worry about and you want to keep the test taking a minimum. You already have enough stress as it is, right?

But, this is one test that you definitely don’t want to pass up. There are so many benefits to taking the PSAT–in fact, there are three in particular that will actually have you wanting to get in line as fast as you can for the PSAT.

I know you feel like Fry sometimes, but trust me- you’ll want to hear what I have to say about the PSAT! It definitely isn’t a waste of time or a trick! It will help you in the future!

What is the PSAT?

First there was the SAT and now the PSAT too? I know you’re probably wondering what that means and I’m here for your answers. Basically, the PSAT is the Practice SAT test.

I’m sure you’re wondering why on earth you would want to experience the SAT before you actually have to take it.

Well, I’m here to be the bearer of good news–the PSAT is actually not as bad as the SAT!

The PSAT is shorter (it’s only two hours long)!  And it has three sections:

  • Critical reading

  • Writing

  • Math

Another plus about the PSAT is that the writing section is just multiple-choice. No essay.


That’s a big weight of the shoulders, right? The PSAT is offered every year in October and it is definitely worth the time out of your day to take it.

what is the psat and why does it matter

Thanks for your questions Philosoraptor, but I’m getting there! Even though the test is a little different and maybe a little less challenging than the SAT, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is helpful to you.

When should I take the PSAT?

As much as it hurts to hear this, it is not possible to get “too much” practice. Especially when it comes to a test as important as the SAT because it has such a big role in your future educational plans. The PSAT is offered once a year in October every year.

At a minimum you should take the PAST your junior year so you can have time to look at your detailed results before you take the SAT late in your junior year or early in your senior year.

However, I would recommend taking a first shot at the PSAT your sophomore year for extra practice. Stay tuned to read what benefits you can get from the PSAT your junior year and why you’ll want the extra practice your sophomore year.

So, let’s talk benefits.

1)  National Merit Scholarship 

I know what’s on your mind…

Money, money, money!

And how do you get it for college?

Yup! You guessed it–the PSAT can help here too!

The National Merit Scholarship is awarded to a small amount of students every year to help them fund their college experience. In fact, the PSAT is sometimes even referred to as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).

Although it varies from year to year, the qualifying score for the scholarship is usually between 210 and 215.

And since the only year you can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship is your junior year, don’t you think you might want to give it a practice shot your sophomore year?

Yeah, I thought so too.

national merit scholarship what is the psat

This is just a snapshot of the benefits the National Merit Scholarship can get you. As you can see, there are a lot of universities that offer full ride scholarships!

To get more information on how to get Crazy Scholarship Money From the PSAT and for a complete list of what kind of money colleges offer, click on the link!

But if you thought the benefits ended there, well, then you’d be wrong.

2)    It helps you connect with colleges

Now, why are any of us taking these grueling never-ending tests like the PSAT and SAT tests? To get into our dream college of course!

As much as the PSAT makes us moan and groan and roll our eyes in frustration, it really is an amazing tool to help us get connected to colleges that we are interesting in, and vice-versa!


what is the psat and why would you study for it


Let’s say you’re interested in engineering.  Or theater.  Or linguistics.  Well, guess what? There’s a section on the PSAT called the student search survey.  It asks what you’re interested in, and if you want information about colleges that are interested in you.

Dreading a long form?  Well, all you have to do is bubble “yes” and wait.

Soon enough, colleges will get in contact with you, and tell you all about their admissions, applications, and even a little about the scholarships that they can offer you. It’s a great way to learn about all the college options for you as you start filling out those applications.

Oh, and did I mention that its completely free? You can get this wonderful benefit by just bubbling in one measly bubble. Talk about winning.

3)       It better prepares you to take the SAT. 

We all know that the SAT is a scary thought. Most shiver at the sound of the name. For tips on how to tame the SAT click on the link!

Taking the PSAT will definitely help to reduce SAT anxiety.

One reason behind this is that you will start getting used to the format of the questions. The PSAT incorporates questions that use the same format as questions on the SAT.

This’ll help prepare you for the SAT, since you won’t be surprised by the types of questions you see–so you can focus instead on finding the right answer. As with most other things, the more prepared you are, the better.

The way this works is each section is broken down for you in the score report. The sore report shows you

  • What answer you chose

  • The correct answer

  • The difficulty level of the question

psat test results

This is an example of what a score report looks like.

After you get it, you can look through the test and check out the questions you missed–and then better prepare yourself for those types of questions. You can also learn other information about your test taking skills from this section of the score report.

If most of the questions you miss are labeled easy or medium, that means you need to slow down and read the questions more carefully.

However, if you miss more questions that are ‘hard’ then you know that you need to focus on actual content and hit the books. Well, figuratively at least.

You also get to see where you scored in relation to students across the country, so you know what you have to compete with when it comes to the SAT.

psat test results

Not only will you be able to anticipate the types of questions you’ll see, but you’ll also learn what skills you need to improve, and where your strengths lie.

In the report, you see what categories the questions you missed most fall under so you know which topics you’re solid on, and which ones you might have to study a little extra.

what is the psat test results

For example, if the score report above was yours, you would know that you need to focus on organization, ideas, and understanding literary elements.

This narrows down the big pool of information you’ve been feeling like you’re drowning in, so you know exactly what you need to study to get the best score that you can on the SAT.

Those are a just few examples of how the PSAT will help when it comes to its bigger, scarier brother–the SAT.

SO, what is the PSAT and why is it important?

Basically, what’ve we talked about?  The PSAT is the preliminary SAT (meaning the exam before the SAT), designed to help you prepare.

And it’s important because it helps you find info about college, and it can get you qualified for a life changing scholarship.  (Not to mention that it actually does prepare you!)

So basically, don’t blow it off–prepare for it, and you’ll see it pay off in no time.

Coauthored by Rita Khalaf

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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