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The PSAT: What It Is and Why It Matters

The PSAT is a dress rehearsal for the SAT. And, if you score high enough, it might also lead to a scholarship.

If there's one moment when the whole "college thing" starts to get very real, it's when you sit down to take the PSAT. It's the kick-off to college admission testing.

The PSAT Gives You a Preview of the SAT

While the PSAT is not an exact replica of the SAT, it serves as an excellent introduction to the test because the questions and test format are similar. It includes three tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics. The PSAT is shorter than the three-hour SAT, clocking in at two hours and 45 minutes.

Your PSAT Scores Help Identify Areas for Improvement

Your test results will give you an idea of how you might perform on the SAT and provide feedback about the areas where you need to improve. Subscores will be available for every PSAT test section, providing added insight for students, parents, teachers, and counselors. Your PSAT scores are not reported to any colleges.

Where Merit Scholarships Come In

If you take the PSAT as a junior and are one of the 50,000 highest-scoring test takers, you will be considered for a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship. To have a chance of winning the scholarship, semifinalists must keep up their grades in high school, do well on the SAT, write a biographical letter, and submit letters of recommendation.

What's Next?

Find out more about National Merit Scholarships.

Take a look at The SAT: What You Need to Know to learn more about taking the SAT and how to prepare.