Learn About PSAT

Everything You Need to Know about PSAT before You Register for It

The PSAT Test

Many high school students appear for the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT, in order to prepare for the SAT test. This test is synonymous with the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), which is a qualifying test to determine your eligibility for a scholarship to fund your college education.

It is important to know all the details of PSAT because it helps you to prepare for the test. Knowing the test sections helps you to focus on specific areas. You must also know about the question types in order to practice the questions under conditions similar to the actual examination. It is essential to read about the test before you register for it, so that you are aware of the quantum of effort involved for taking the test. Knowledge regarding the examination will also help you to judge your aptitude for the test before registering for it: whether you have the skills to appear for the test, whether you will be able to prepare for it, and so on.

The test is administered at schools during the month of October each year. The test lasts for 2 hours and 10 minutes. The PSAT/NMSQT evaluates your critical thinking/logical reasoning skills, reading and writing skills, and math reasoning skills. The test includes five sections: two critical reading sections and two math sections lasting 25-minutes each, and one 30-minute writing skills section.

You can appear for the PSAT/NMSQT in your junior or sophomore year. It is always best to appear for the test as early as you can so that you have enough time to prepare for a retest and improve your score in the SAT. The PSAT is usually administered on the third Saturday of October and the preceding Wednesday each year.

PSAT Sections

The PSAT test includes the following sections: Critical Reading, Math Reasoning, and Writing. The following table lists the types of questions in each section:


Time (in minutes)

Question Type

Total Number of Questions

Critical Reading-2 sections


Sentence completion- 13


Passage-based reading- 35

Math-2 sections


Multiple choice- 28


Grid-in responses- 10

Writing Skills


Improving sentences- 20


Identifying sentence errors- 14

Improving paragraphs-5

PSAT Question Types

The subjects or areas that are assessed in the PSAT test are as follows:

  • Critical Reading Skills: The Critical Reading section tests the following areas:
  • Topic


    Determine the Author’s Craft

    You must determine the writing style of the author and the usage of writing techniques, such as personification and metaphors.


    You must identify the primary ideas of the passage to answer questions.

    Literary Elements

    You must identify the literary elements used in the passage.

    Reasoning and Inference

    You must form your conclusions based on the varied information, such as suggestions and assumptions, in the passage.


    You must understand the root words, prefixes, and suffixes of words to derive the meaning of the given word.

  • Mathematics: The Mathematics section tests the following areas:
  • Topic


    Algebra and Functions

    You must recognize relationships and patterns and solve problems using algebraic expressions.


    You must communicate your understanding of Math concepts using mathematical notations.


    You must connect mathematical ideas to solve problems.

    Data, Statistics and Probability

    You must form conclusions and answer questions on probability based on the statistical data.

    Geometry and Measurement

    You must understand the properties of shapes and answer questions based on them.

    Number and Operations

    You must understand the types of numbers, whether integers, fractions, or decimals and perform calculations.

    Problem Solving

    You must use strategies to answer the problems.


    You must form conclusions based on the information provided to answer questions.


    You must use representations to solve questions.

  • Writing Skills: The Writing Skills section tests the following areas:
  • Topic


    Grammatical Structures

    You must identify and use adjectives, adverbs, and comparative structures.

    Phrases and Clauses

    You must manage sentence structures using sentence elements.


    You must understand the grammatical structure of sentences in order to improve the sentences correctly.


    You must use the appropriate words and understand the grammatical relationship between words.

It is essential for you to be aware of the different sections in the examination and types of questions that appear in the test so that you can prepare the topics thoroughly. Strengthening your foundation in the subject areas is the key to achieving above-average scores. Therefore, focus on the fundamentals of each subject first and learn how to apply the concepts. Also, get enough practice so that you learn to identify questions quickly in the test. Having a few strategies also helps you to solve questions faster.