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What is the PSAT?

The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a standardized test program used to help students gauge their performance on the SAT. Although co-sponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), the PSAT is administered by local high schools and is generally given to sophomores and juniors.


Reasons to Take the PSAT

Most students take the PSAT in order to practice for the real SAT. Others register in order to submit their names to colleges as prospective students. For these reasons alone, the test is well worth the small fee charged by your high school. Additionally, students who take the PSAT are also qualified for several scholarships or recognition programs:

National Merit Scholarship Program: The National Merit Scholarship Program is the oldest and most recognized scholarship associated with the PSAT. Nearly all US high school students who take the PSAT are entered into the competition, which rewards the highest-scoring students with scholarships from NMSC, local corporations, or subscribing colleges. The top 3% to 4% of test takers are recognized as "Commended Students," and their names are submitted as such to two colleges of their choice. Of these approximately 50,000 Commended Students, 16,000 are selected as National Merit Semifinalists based on their PSAT score and their state of residence. NMSC designates a specified number of Semifinalists from each state in order to ensure that all states are represented, and then selects 15,000 of these students as National Merit Finalists. Each Finalist must submit an application, an official SAT score, and a letter of recommendation from the high school principal in order to compete for scholarships. More than 8,000 will win a merit scholarship based on their PSAT and SAT scores. To learn more, visit the NMSC website at

National Achievement Scholarship Program: Also sponsored by NMSC, the National Achievement Scholarship Program functions exactly like the National Merit Scholarship Program, but is only open to Black American high school students. The top 800 competitors will receive merit scholarships based on their PSAT and SAT scores. Further information is available at

National Hispanic Recognition Program: Juniors who take the PSAT and are at least one-quarter Hispanic are automatically entered for the College Board's National Hispanic Recognition Program. This program recognizes the top 2% to 3% of all Hispanic test takers by submitting the honorees’ names to those colleges and universities that are College Board members. While a monetary award is not given by the College Board itself, most of these students will receive scholarship offers from the subscribing four-year colleges. For more information, please visit

National Scholarship Service (NSSFNS): The names of all junior-level, African American test takers are submitted to the National Scholarship Service, a company dedicated to connecting disadvantaged students with college advisors and recruiters. This program is not sponsored by the College Board.

Telluride Association: Students scores are sent to the Telluride Association, which selects gifted juniors to participate in Telluride’s summer programs for social sciences. More information is available on their website,

When to Take the PSAT

The PSAT is only given once a year, usually in the second week of October. Because the test contains sophomore-level material, you should take it after the completion of your second year of high school, in the fall of your junior year. Many students also take the PSAT in their sophomore year; if you choose to take the test at that time, be sure to take it the following year as well in order to qualify for any junior-level scholarships or recognition programs.

How to Register for the PSAT

The PSAT is administered by high schools, so you must register through the local guidance counselor’s office. The registration fee is $12, but some high schools attach a small administrative fee. For more information about the PSAT, please visit the College Board at

PowerScore Courses for the PSAT

Because the PSAT and the SAT are so similar, students can attend the PowerScore SAT classes to prepare for the PSAT. The content in the SAT class that is not tested on the PSAT—Algebra II and essay-writing—is still extremely valuable; the grammar, usage, and structure taught in the essay portion of the class is tested in the multiple choice writing questions, and the basic Algebra II concepts discussed in class reinforce many math fundamentals needed to master the test.