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PSAT Test - Format, Structure, and Question Types

The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a standardized test that most high schools in the United States administer to their 11th grade students. Some high schools also offer the PSAT/NMSQT to their 9th and/or 10th grade students. Considered to be a "preliminary SAT," the PSAT test gives students a sense of the format, question types, content, and time limits that they will encounter on the SAT. Additionally, the PSAT test serves as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program.


PSAT Test Format, Structure, and Question Types

As of the fall of 2015, all students will be tested using the new, redesigned PSAT. The new test format continues to test reasoning skills, but places a clearer, stronger focus on the knowledge, skills, and understandings most important for success after high school. The new format places greater emphasis on a student's ability to determine the meaning of words in extended contexts and how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact. The test measures a student's skills in two core areas: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math, and is composed of three sections—Reading, Writing, and Math. Total testing time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The breakdown of each section is as follows:

Section Sub-Section Total Testing Time & Breakdown Number of Questions Content/Skills Covered
Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Reading 60 minutes 47 reading and vocabulary in context
Writing 35 mintues 44 grammar and usage
Math 70 minutes;
1 45-minute calculator-optional section and
1 25-minute no-calculator section
47 heart of algebra, problem solving & data analysis, passport to advanced math, additional topics (geometry, trigonometry and pre-calculus)

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