PSAT Testing

Everything You Need to Know about PSAT Testing

What is PSAT?

The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test or PSAT is a test that is taken by many high school students to prepare for the SAT test. PSAT Testing is synonymous with the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), which determines your eligibility for a scholarship to fund your college education.

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

When Should You Appear for PSAT?

You can appear for the PSAT/NMSQT in your junior or sophomore year. The earlier you appear for the test, the more time you have to prepare and improve your score for the SAT test. The PSAT test is usually administered on the third Saturday of October and the preceding Wednesday each year.

Test 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


Sentence completion- 13


Passage-based reading- 35



Multiple choice- 28


Grid-in responses- 10



Improving sentences- 20


Identifying sentence errors- 14

Improving paragraphs-5

Question Types

PSAT testing includes questions that are designed to test a student’s ability to logically analyze a given problem. Although some amount of high school knowledge is required to solve questions, such as vocabulary or Math concepts/formulae, you mostly need to understand, interpret, and analyze the question in order to answer it. The question types are varied in each section.

The Critical Reading section includes questions on the following:

  • Sentence Completion: A “Fill in the Blanks” type of question where you need to understand the meaning of the sentence and then try to fit the best possible solution from the given set of words. This type of question measures your vocabulary and your ability to use that vocabulary in the sentence in a logical manner.

  • Passage-based Reading: These questions are based on a passage. The passages are taken from various subjects, such as social sciences or humanities, and can be descriptive, argumentative or narrative. The passages are usually between 100 to 850 words, followed by questions based on the passages. The questions based on the passage are varied in nature. The types of questions range from providing correct answers from the passage to testing your vocabulary and logical reasoning skills.

The Math section includes questions that are in multiple-choice format and student-produced responses or grid-ins. To solve questions in the Math section, you need a basic knowledge of the following topics:

  • Algebra and functions: This does not include the content taught in the final year.
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probability
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Numbers and operation

The Writing section includes questions on the following:

  • Identifying sentence errors: These questions test your skills in grammar, vocabulary, and idioms. You need to submit your response based on whether a sentence includes errors or not.
  • Improving sentences: In this type of question, you need to select the best possible word/phrase to replace a marked section of the sentence.
  • Improving paragraphs: In this question, you need to find the best fit among the given choices to replace a section in the paragraph.

Being aware of the PSAT testing format and the types of questions is helpful because the PSAT is an important indicator of how well prepared you are to appear for the SAT test. It is also an indicator of how well you are likely to do in the SAT test. You can use this benchmark to plan and prepare yourself for the test accordingly.

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