The College Board seems determined to devise an assessment for every year of a child’s academic career. However, those early grade exams only concern students in certain states, districts, or private schools. Every college-bound high schooler, however, must at least consider the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT. Though neither test is mandatory, both loom large when planning 11th and 12th grade. These exams are very similar superficially but definitely not the same:
There is (thankfully) only one SAT. SAT Subject Tests play a supporting role in college admissions but differs dramatically from the SAT in terms of content and structure.
Many versions of the PSAT cater to different stages of the K-12 continuum. Tests like the PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9 strongly resemble the PSAT/NMSQT with fewer questions and a more restricted score scale.
In a departure from earlier versions of the test, today’s PSAT tests everything the SAT tests, with the notable and welcome exception of the essay. However, the PSAT has fewer questions.
With breaks but without the pre-test proctor speech, the multiple-choice portion of the SAT takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. The PSAT/NMSQT under the same conditions takes 2 hours and 55 minutes.
SAT test takers receive 200-800 scores for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test and the Math Test. These scores are added for a total SAT score of 400-1600.
PSAT/NMSQT test takers receive 160–760 scores for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test and the Math Test. These scores are added for a total SAT score of 320–1520.
The SAT is used as an entrance exam by every college and university except the odd test-blind school.
The PSAT has no bearing on college admissions.
The SAT can be used to qualify for any number of school, organizational, community, and corporate scholarships.
The PSAT can be used to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship and other scholarships offered through the National Merit Corporation.
The SAT is administered many times a year at test centers all over the world.
The PSAT/NMSQT is administered on specific dates in October, typically at a student’s own school.
Both the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT have the potential to deliver tremendous benefits to college-bound students, but their value varies by situation. Deciding whether or not to take either of these exams can be tough, but having all the relevant information should make your choices easier.