PSAT or PSAT/ NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is jointly conducted by the NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) and the College Board. PSAT gives students a first hand experience in preparing for the SAT. In addition, the PSAT also serves as the qualifying test for the many National Merit Scholarship programs. PSAT precedes SAT and provides students with an opportunity to practice for their SAT’s and give them a direct idea of what they are to face in the SAT. The goal behind the PSAT is to serve as and provides a platform where the student has the opportunity to works towards NMSC scholarship programs and of course college and career planning while practicing and preparing for the SAT.
The duration for PSAT is 2 hours and 10 minutes. There are 3 areas or sections that a student is appraised on. These sections are
- Critical reading skills
- Math problem solving skills
- Writing skills
PSAT Critical Reading Section
The PSAT critical reading skills section comprises of two 25 minute reading sessions. There are 48 multiple choice questions to be answered. These 48 questions are divided in the following manner
- 13 Sentence completion questions
- 35 Critical reading questions.
The student is appraised on the ability to complete sentences, the understand and comprehension of the meaning of words and also tests their efficiency in understanding how to logically piece together different parts of a sentence. Students are also tested on passage reading.
PSAT Math Problem Solving Section
The PSAT math section consists of two 25 minute math sessions. The total number of questions in this section is 38. These questions are further divided into
- 28 multiple choice questions
- 10 open response or grid-in questions.
Grid-ins are also known as “Student Produced Responses” or open response questions. The students are required to enter their responses to these 10 questions on a grid. There are no restriction on the use of calculators for Math. However, none of the questions really require its use. In the PSAT Math section, students are tested in 4 areas
- Numbers and Operations
- Functions & Algebra; (does not include 3rd year level math appearing on the latest SAT)
- Geometry and Measurement
- Analysis of Data, Probability & Statistics
PSAT Writing skills Section
The PSAT Writing Section comprises of one 30 minute session that focused on writing skills. The writing section comprises of 39 multiple choice questions. These 39 questions are again divided in the following manner
- 14 questions on identification of errors in sentence
- 20 questions on sentence improvement
- 5 questions on paragraph improvement.
The writing portion of PSAT measures the expertise of a student in expressing ideas effectively under standard written English, recognition of errors in usage and structure along with usage of language by attaching sensitivity to its meaning. Further, identification of sentence errors, grammar, usage and choice of words and idiom. Questions on sentence improvement require the student to select the most appropriate form for the underlined part of a sentence. There are also, questions on paragraph improvement that require a student to improve the logic of the paragraph and organize it in a more coherent fashion and bring out the flaws at the same time.
Each year close to 4 million students take the PSAT. High school sophomores, juniors along with a few high school freshmen, eight and seventh graders take the PSAT each year.
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