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College 101

Five Facts About the PSAT
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

The PSAT—or Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test—is a shorter version of the SAT that students can use to practice for the PSAT's hairier, angrier big brother...kind of like facing off with a Tasmanian devil before trying to tackle Wolverine.

The Skinny on the PSAT:

1. What is it?
The PSAT is the training-wheels version of the SAT. It’s like the minor leagues, the amateur wrestling circuit, or the cruise-ship stand-up comedy tour of college placement exams. That doesn't mean the test isn't important: there may be money at the end of the PSAT rainbow in the form of National Merit scholarships.

2. What's on it?
The test has three parts: a 60-minute Reading section with 47 questions, a 35-minute Writing and Language section with 44 questions (those two combine to make up the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section), and a 70-minute Math section with 48 questions. There is no essay.

"Slow down, big girl. Still got that 35-minute Writing and Language section left."


3. How often is it given?
Unlike the SAT or the ACT, the PSAT is only given twice a year, usually on a Wednesday and a Saturday in October.

4. Where is it given?
Check with your guidance counselor, because the PSAT could be coming to a school near you, or your own. Not all schools that give the test are willing to host students from outside the school (boo!), so be sure to confirm before signing up.

5. When should you take it? 
Take the PSAT in October of your sophomore or junior year. If you want your score to be considered for a National Merit scholarship (and who doesn't?), then you have to take the exam your junior year, whether you took it as a sophomore or not.

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