PSAT Exam Guide

An Introduction to PSAT

The PSAT, better known as the Preliminary SAT, is a test that helps you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in accordance with the skills you require to pursue further studies in college. It is also a practice test for the SAT test and comprises of three sections of Math, Critical Reading and Writing Skills. The test is co-governed by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Test takers automatically qualify as potential scholarship awardees depending on their scores in the PSAT. Taking the PSAT also helps one understand the intricacies of the SAT test as both the tests screen for similar competencies. The PSAT has various question types that are spread across three sections of the test. Familiarization with the test helps students gauge the plan of action whilst preparing for the test.

The Three Sections of the PSAT

Writing Skills section on the PSAT tests students for skills in the use of standard written English and evaluates their abilities to find faults and mistakes with regards to structure and usage of the English language. A test taker should make sure that he has a sound understanding of the English language in terms of grammar, punctuations, continuity etc.

Critical Reading section on the PSAT tests students for their understanding and interpretation of passages provided. You may either be directed to complete a sentence by picking the appropriate choice or read and understand the one or more passages provided and provide information asked in the questions.

Math section on the PSAT tests students for proficiency and applications of basic mathematical operators taught through school. Concepts involved are geometry and measurement, data analysis, statistics, algebra (third year math concepts appear in the SAT not in the PSAT) and probability. You are allowed to use a calculator for the PSAT Math section; however the questions involved do not display the need for one.

The Various Question Types on the PSAT

Writing Skills

  • Identifying Sentence Errors means you have to find mistakes and flaws in sentences provided with regards to improper usage of words, grammatical errors and choice of words. Test takers are expected to identify such flaws and mention if there are no flaws in a particular sentence.
  • Improving Sentences questions require the test taker to choose from choices given below that best fit the underlined portion of the sentence. It basically means that you would have to provide a best suited substitute for the underlined portion of the sentence.
  • Improving Paragraphs questions direct the test takers to read through the paragraph and make changes with reference to structure, flow and overall cohesiveness of the paragraph. One should read the matter carefully and make the necessary changes to perfect the paragraph in light of Standard English comprehension norms.

Critical Reading

  • The PSAT has Sentence Completion Questions that are similar to the SAT test. Test takers are required to understand the meaning of the provided sentence and pick from the choices provided to ensure continuity and meaning of the sentence. Good vocabulary and writing skills are required on the part of the test takers in order to get these questions right.
  • The Passage Based Reading questions screen the test takers' understanding of a passage or two or more passages by questioning them about the matter provided. You should carefully read the passages and understand them before you answer the questions provided below.


  • The Multiple Choice Questions on the PSAT direct the test taker to pick the best suited choice in accordance to the question provided. This means that the test taker has to read and understand the question and choose from a list of answers provided.
  • The Grid-in Questions are the same as the ones on the SAT test. They require the test taker to solve the mathematical questions provided and write the answer in the space provided. Students should ensure that they do not overlook re-checking their calculations and should try and avoid silly mistakes.
  • The PSAT is literal preparation for the SAT test. A good score on the PSAT also ensures that you receive a scholarship from the NMSC. To read more about the PSAT visit

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