The PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 are both given to high school students, usually in 10th grade. The difference between the two tests, which will be referred to here as PSAT, is that they are administered during different times of the year. The NMSQT designation refers to the fact that National Merit Scholars can be chosen based, in part, on their respective test scores. The test is generally designed to measure what a student learned in high school and what they will need for success in college. The length of the entire exam is 2 hours 45 minutes, with the exam being divided into several sections. 

The Reading section of the PSAT measures a student’s ability to put words and passages into context, analyze the meaning of words or phrases as they are used within these passages, and evaluate hypotheses as implied from the passages, among other things. They are multiple choice in format and can contain informational graphics, but there is no math required. This section of the test is allotted 60 minutes.

The Writing and Language section is intended to test a student’s ability to read, find mistakes or weaknesses, and correct them. All questions are in multiple choice format and can also contain informational graphics, but there is no math required. Topics revolve around careers, history, social studies, the humanities, and science. Students are allowed 35 minutes for this section.

The Math section of the exam presents questions based on academic courses, careers, and a student’s personal life. The questions are in multiple choice format and focus on algebra, problem solving and data analysis, with questions also related to advanced mathematical concepts. An interesting fact about this section of the exam is that two subsections are involved. One permits students to use calculators, while the other does not allow calculator use. The complete math section has a time allotment of 70 minutes.

There are sample questions for each section of the PSAT at the following links: Math Sample Questions, Writing and Language Sample Questions , and also Reading Sample Questions. The official PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 site may be accessed by clicking here.

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