Thinking about post-secondary studies in the US?

PSAT:  Standardized Testing in Grade 10

The PSAT officially stands for Preliminary SAT.  It also goes by the name, National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (or NMSQT) and is co-sponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the USA.

Many students who are interested in going to the US for their post-secondary studies wait until grade 11, or even Grade 12 to write their SAT or ACT exams (the standardized tests that are required by most US schools).   Waiting until your most senior years can limit your chances at US college enrollment, so starting early and writing the PSAT in grade 9 or 10 is a good way to prepare for the SAT / ACT exams.

In essence, the PSAT is a mini-version of the SAT.  It does not include higher-level algebra questions and while the vocabulary is a bit more challenging, it is slightly simpler than the language you might find on the SAT exam.

The PSAT and SAT have quite a bit of overlap, so writing the PSAT can be good preparation for the SAT.  It will also give one a sense of where your scoring range is and potentially assess how much additional SAT preparation is required to achieve the score you want (or need) as part of your US college application.

For non-American citizens, colleges in the US often begin their recruitment of students based on the PSAT performance.  Remember, while Canadian universities look primarily at grade 11 and 12 marks, the US colleges look at marks from grades 9, 10, 11 and 12.   In essence, if you are seriously considering US schools, the PSAT can you on the admissions radar screen.

The PSAT (NMSQT) measures the following skills:

  • Critical reading
  • Math problem-solving
  • Writing

And has the following sections:

  • Reading
  • Writing and Language
  • Mathematics (no calculator)
  • Mathematics (calculator)

In Canada, the PSAT is offered and administered by individual high schools.  Parents must register their children.   Registration and information about exam locations and times can be found at:  www.collegeboard.org

To prepare for the PSAT exam, students can find sample tests / study guides on the www.collegeboard.org website, Kahn Academy as well as at Amazon.ca.