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SAT vs PSAT: Key Differences You Must Know


The SAT and the PSAT, both the tests are offered by the College Board, a not-for-profit American based organisation. Both the tests are similar but not identical. In this article let us see the similarities and differences between the SAT and PSAT.

When we say PSAT, there are different types of PSAT offered by the College Board. PSAT 8/9 is for students at 8th and 9th grade; PSAT 10 is for students at 10th grade; PSAT/NMSQT for students at 10th or 11th grade and as a preparatory for the SAT.

We are going to compare the SAT with PSAT/NMSQT which is the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. As you all know that the SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States and a few other countries.

PSAT prep will be a great primer for the SAT prep.

SAT and PSAT – Similarities

Related Blog Post: SAT Percentiles and Score Rankings

The structure and format of both tests are identical.

  • Both the tests are paper-pencil test with 2 main sections; Evidence-based Reading & Writing and Math.
  • Evidence-based Reading & Writing has two tests: Reading, Writing & Language.
  • Math has two components: No calculator and Yes calculator.
  • SAT also includes an optional Essay section but PSAT doesn’t have the essay section.

The content of the test, that is the topics tested in SAT and PSAT is the same.

  • Reading section has passages based on literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences.
  • Writing & Language are also passage-based testing Grammar, vocabulary in context, and editing skills. Math sections mainly test Algebra, Arithmetic, Data analysis, some Geometry and Trigonometry.

Question types in both the tests are alike.

  • Reading section and the Writing & Language section have multiple-choice questions with four answer choices.
  • Math sections have multiple-choice questions with four answer choices and a few Grid in questions (student-produced response questions).

Both the SAT and the PSAT have multiple scores reported in the score report.

  • A composite score which is the sum of Evidence-based Reading and Writing and the math is reported.
  • The report has two section scores for Evidence-based Reading and Writing and in Math section.
  • Three test scores such as SAT Reading, SAT Writing & Language and SAT Math test scores are reported.
  • Apart from these, there are also two cross-test scores and seven sub-scores reported in both SAT and PSAT score reports.

There is no penalty for wrong answers in SAT and PSAT.

  • Having said so many similarities in SAT and PSAT, let’s see how these tests are different.

Related Blog Post: How Long Does It Take to Send SAT Scores?


SAT and PSAT – Differences

The difficulty level of the questions is high in SAT compared to that of PSAT.

  • This is obviously because of the grade difference at which the tests are taken. PSAT is taken at 10th or 11th grade and SAT is taken at 11th or 12th

The score range for both the tests are different.

  • SAT is scored in the range of 400 to 1600 and PSAT is scored from 320 to 1520.
  • Other scores in the report also have different ranges for the SAT and PSAT.

Duration and number of questions in each section vary.

  • SAT is close to 4 hours tests whereas PSAT duration is 2 hours 45 minutes.
  • No of questions in SAT is slightly more than the number of question in PSAT.
  • Time per question is almost the same for the SAT and PSAT except for no calculator section.
SAT has an optional Essay section whereas PSAT doesn’t have the essay section.

The purpose of taking the SAT and the PSAT is different.

  • SAT is used to measure the college readiness for undergrad admissions.
  • PSAT score is not used for admission process but it acts as a great primer for the SAT.
  • PSAT score is the basis for the national merit scholarship qualifying test for the US citizens.

Benefits of taking the PSAT

  • Get a feel of the SAT.
  • Get familiar with the question types, formats, proctoring of the SAT.
  • One can directly experience the time pressure in the PSAT and can work on time management for the SAT.
  • Detailed score report of PSAT is a good indicator of how students need to prepare for the SAT.

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1 Comments so far

  1. Hi, I would require a free counselling session to understand the course and also know the timeline and Fee structure for the SAT course

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