If you’re a high school student planning on going to college after graduation, then it’s time to start getting your affairs together. In order to apply to college, you will need to take one of two standardized tests that schools use to determine whether or not you’ll be admitted. These are the SAT and the ACT. If you're planning on taking the SAT, then you can prepare by taking the practice version, the PSAT.

Tip

High school students should take the PSAT, the Preliminary SAT, because it's a good opportunity for them to prepare for the actual SAT test.

What Is the PSAT Practice Test?

The PSAT is a practice test that’s designed to give students an idea of what they will face on the actual SAT test. It stands for "Preliminary SAT," according to Kaplan. Because most students will take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, students can take the PSAT before this, as early as 8th or 9th grade.

You can take the PSAT as many times as you’d like to get an idea of what to expect on the real SAT, and to get an idea of how you’ll do when it comes time to take the actual SAT test. This is because the PSAT is very similar to the SAT. Since the score you get on the PSAT doesn't count toward anything, you don't have to worry about not doing well. You can try again.

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What Are the Differences Between the PSAT and SAT?

The PSAT is almost identical to the SAT, but there are some differences that are worth noting, according to Prepscholar.

First, the PSAT has three different types of tests, which are exactly the same in content, but they're taken at set times. These are the PSAT 8/9, the PSAT 10 and the PSAT/NMSQT. The PSAT 8/9 is offered to 8th and 9th graders, and the PSAT 10 is given to 10th graders but only in the spring.

Lastly, there's the regular PSAT test that high schoolers take, which is the PSAT/NMSQT that can be taken by 10th and 11th graders in the fall. This PSAT test can qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship. You can only qualify for this scholarship if you take the PSAT, which is another reason to take it.

Additionally, the SAT and the PSAT have the same sections and the same question types. The main difference is that while the SAT has the optional essay section, the PSAT has no essay section at all. The PSAT is also a little shorter time-wise than the SAT. While the SAT is 180 minutes long, the PSAT is 165 minutes long.

Why Should You Take the PSAT Practice Test?

The PSAT practice test is not required as a prerequisite to the SAT, nor is it proven that those who take the PSAT do better on the actual exam than those who don’t. That being said, like with any challenge in life, practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the better you will probably do.

Students don't just take the PSAT to get an idea of what questions they may face or what their potential score might be. They also take it to understand what parts they find easy and what parts they find more difficult, and to get the gist of how they will perform on the actual SAT test.

You can start taking the PSAT as early as 8th grade, but that doesn’t mean everyone will take the PSAT this early or at all. Those who have anxiety about test-taking would certainly benefit from the PSAT. It will also help them to feel more confident and prepared when the actual SAT test day comes. PSAT math practice can also help.

Students who may be struggling in a specific area of the test should take the PSAT to see what they need to be studying more, such as a specific topic or simple problem-solving strategies. Taking the PSAT can help you narrow-down your study plan.

What Is a Good PSAT Score?

The score you get on the PSAT doesn't count toward anything, unless you want to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship. Otherwise, it only matters what you get on the actual SAT. All that considered, both tests are scored differently. While the PSAT is scored on a scale from 320 to 1520, the SAT is scored on a scale from 400 to 1600, according to PrepScholar.

After studying hard and taking the PSAT several times, there's a good chance that whatever you score on the PSAT will be within a similar range of what you'll score on the actual SAT test. The average PSAT score is 920 according to Magoosh, and the scores line up quite well. So, if you get a 1520 on the PSAT, that would be equivalent to a 1600 on the actual SAT.

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.