Our last blog post addressed differences between the PreACT and the ACT. Today we will examine the relationship between the PSAT and SAT as it is fundamentally different that that between the PreACT and ACT.
There are a few versions of the PSAT that students will take at various points during middle school and high school. Eighth and ninth graders take the PSAT 8/9. A variety of talent search programs, including Duke Talent Identification Program (https://tip.duke.edu), use these scores to evaluate student eligibility. Tenth graders take the PSAT 10. Note that while some scholarship programs use this score in their searches, the National Merit Scholarship Program does not. Tenth and eleventh graders take the PSAT/NMSQT. The National Merit Scholarship Program uses this version of the PSAT to evaluate student eligibility. For the purposes of this comparison, I am using the PSAT/NMSQT.
Format of the PSAT/NMSQT
Reading: 47 questions, 60 minutes (1min16sec/question)
Writing and Language: 44 questions, 35 minutes (48 sec/question)
Math Test – No Calculator: 17 questions, 25 minutes (1min28sec/question)
Math Test – Calculator active: 31 questions, 45 minutes (1min27sec/question)
Format of the SAT
Reading: 52 questions, 65 minutes (1min15sec/question)
Writing and Language: 44 questions, 35 minutes (48sec/question)
Math Test—No Calculator: 20 questions, 25 minutes (1min/15sec/question)
Math Test—Calculator Active: 38 questions, 55 minutes (1min27sec/question)
The PSAT/NMSQT is scored on a scale of 1520 total points. This total score breaks down into two subsections, Math and Verbal, each scored on a scale of 760.
The SAT is scored on a scale of 1600 total points. This total score breaks down into two subsections, Math and Verbal, each scored on a scale of 800.
The PSAT’s slightly lower score range accounts for the lower difficulty level and shortened nature of this test. While the Writing and Language sections are identical in question number and length, the other three sections are extended on the SAT. The Calculator Inactive math section changes the most from PSAT to SAT as the SAT eliminates almost fifteen seconds per question. This particular section poses unique obstacles to students who rely on a calculator for basic math computation.
Although the scales of the two tests are not identical, a student’s PSAT score directly equates to his/her predicted SAT score. For example, if a student scores a 1250 on the PSAT, s/he should score a 1250 on the SAT as well. Additionally, the PSAT allows students to identify strengths and weaknesses within each subject that can help in SAT preparation. However, students should take a full-length practice SAT before beginning any SAT prep program, as this is the most accurate way to assess students’ SAT test-taking skills.