The SAT and the PSAT have a number of similarities. Both tests are created by the College Board, and both tests cover basic subjects such as reading, writing, and math. However, there are important differences between these two tests that test-takers should be aware of.
The SAT vs. the PSAT: General Differences
The SAT is a compilation of 154 questions covering topics related to reading, writing, language, and math. Your final SAT score will have a large bearing on which college or university you can get into once you graduate from high school. Educational institutions throughout the United States use SAT scores as a determining factor when deciding which applications to accept.
The 139 questions and tasks on the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT exams are intended to provide students with a preview of what to expect from the SAT exam. The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT tests are typically taken a year before students take the SAT exam. These tests help test-takers identify weak areas that need to be worked on before taking the SAT.
For this reason, PSAT scores have no bearing on your college or university application; however, a good PSAT/NMSQT score can enable you to earn recognition and scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Program.
There is also a PSAT 8/9 test created specifically for students in eighth and ninth grade. The PSAT 8/9 is the first offering from the College Board in their suite of assessments. This test is a beneficial launching pad for your long-term college readiness testing plan.
How is the PSAT Graded Compared to the SAT
The SAT and PSAT exams are graded differently. Your SAT score may range from 400 to 1600 while PSAT scores range from 320 to 1520. Furthermore, the PSAT exams are fifteen minutes shorter than the SAT exams.
Additionally, the SAT is not administered in the same way as the PSAT. PSAT tests are administered by schools; this means that the school determines the date on which the test is given, and students at the school simply show up and take the test. Students cannot retake the PSAT later on if they aren't happy with the score.
The SAT, on the other hand, is administered at testing centers on pre-determined testing dates. The SAT can be taken by anyone, including homeschool students who want proof of their educational qualifications. Furthermore, a student who is unhappy with his or her SAT score can retake the SAT after a few months and then superscore the SAT to create the highest possible score in order to increase the odds of getting into a particular college or university.
Is the PSAT Really All That Important?
The College Board notes that the PSAT is a low-stakes test that will not impact your college and university applications. However, that doesn't mean that you should ignore it. If you have a chance to take a PSAT exam, go for it because it can help you in more ways than one.
One of the most important benefits of taking a PSAT exam is to identify any weak areas that need work throughout your high school years. If you are used to taking exams similar to the SAT, chances are you can earn a good SAT score the first time around, sparing you the time, hassle and expense of having to repeatedly take the SAT in order to earn the score you want.
Additionally, the PSAT helps you become accustomed to taking timed tests in a similar format to the SAT. If you take one or more PSAT exams throughout your teen years, you won't feel out of place when it comes time to take the SAT exam. Training your mind in this way is important as it will benefit you even if you opt to take the ACT instead of the SAT later on.
Lastly, the PSAT exam administered in tenth and eleventh grades can help you qualify for scholarship funding.
Getting Ready for the Big Day
Are you nervous about taking the PSAT or the SAT? If so, focus your energies on preparing for your exam rather than worrying about it. Taking practice exams may be tedious, but it is one of the best ways to identify your weak areas and accustom yourself to taking timed tests.
Once you know which areas you need to focus on reviewing, set aside study time each day to work on these areas. Choose a spot where you can study undisturbed, turn off your phone, and then get to work. You can study alone or work with a partner who is also preparing for the same test as you are. Working with another person can motivate you to meet your study goals and make study enjoyable at the same time.
The PSAT exams and the SAT exam are both important. Even so, don't confuse the two of them. Knowing what to expect from each test you take can enable you to prepare accordingly and approach test day without undue stress.
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