PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test has two purposes. One, it is a kind of rehearsal for students who plan to take the SAT, which is the test most colleges require for admission. Two, it is used to select students seeking National Merit Scholarships which are awarded spring term of the senior year and to choose students for the National Assistance Scholarship Program for Outstanding Negro Students. A further side benefit of the test is that you can have your scores reported to colleges interested in students scoring in your range, and you will receive a barrage of pamphlets, catalogs, and brochures telling you about those schools.


The PSAT/NMSQT is a 2 hour test that includes four 30-minute sections. The format consist of alternating verbal and math sections. The Verbal Section consist of 58 questions; 16 Sentence Completion, 12 Analogies, and 30 Critical Reading Questions. The Math Section consist of 50 questions; 25 Multiple-Choice, 15 Quantitative Comparisons, and 10 Student produced responses. The math section covers arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. No calculator is required!


The PSAT is given only once a year. in October. In 1996 high schools will administer the PSAT/NMSQT on either Tuesday, October 15 , or Saturday, October 19 . Some people take it multiple times, in their sophomore and junior years. Taking the PSAT in the tenth grade can be good practice, but students who do so, because they are not as far along in the educational process, tend to have lower scores than those who take it in their junior year.


The cost for 1996 is $8.50. Your school may also charge additional fees to cover administrative costs. If you cannot afford the fee, fee waivers are available.


Think of the PSAT as practice, because that is what it is designed for. Your scores are not usually sent to any college unless you specifically request it. Even then, they do not count for admission. Most schools want to see your scores on the SAT or ACT and will use the PSAT only as a basis for sending you recruitment literature.


Start by registering for the PSAT/NMSQT at your school. Once you have signed up, you will receive a bulletin that gives you sample tests, preparation hints, and eligibility r quirements for National Merit Scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards about 4000 scholarships each year, as well as additional scholarships given specifically to minority students. The most important factor in preparing for the PSAT is to become familiar with the format. Take the practice tests in the bulletin. Be sure you understand what the questions ask for. If you have trouble with any of the concepts, talk to one of your teachers or to your counselor.

Chances are, any problems you may have will be due to the way the question is phrased rather than the question itself. It is a good idea to become familiar with how directions on the test are given, and with taking a test under time pressure. Skip over questions you do not know the answers to until you have answered all the ones you do know. Then go back and answer as many f the more difficult questions as you can. Above all, get used to the idea of taking a test in a relaxed but alert frame of mind. If you are a person who tends to panic on a test, the PSAT is a good place to practice, since you know that the scores will not count. There are coaching classes available for the PSAT, but I do not recommend taking them. You get a much more valid sense of strengths and weaknesses going into the tests on your own. hen, when you get your scores back six weeks later, you will know just what areas you need to work on. If you decide to get special coaching for the SAT, you will have a better idea o what to spend time working to improve on. One way you can prepare for the verbal section, no matter what specific strengths or limits you have, is to develop the habit of reading. Only through reading on your own will you develop the vocabulary necessary to really do well on this section of the test. You may also want to look at some of the books that cover preparation for the SAT. These usually include several sample tests as well as hints for general test taking.


The PSAT is scored from 20 (low) to 80 (high), with a national median score of 50. In 1995 an average score was about 49. Juniors with scores above 56 were in the top 25%; those with scores above 63, in the top 10%.If you add a zero to your score, you'll have a rough idea of what you might have gotten if you had taken the SAT. But again, keep in mind that scores tend to improve with every year a student stays in school, and that the more practice you have in taking standardized tests, the better you will do. When you get your scores back, take some time to figure out what they mean for you. Were there areas in which you did especially well? Especially badly? Did you have more trouble with the format than with the questions themselves? Do you need more practice in skipping the hard questions until you have answered enough of the easier ones? Or do you simply need to review your math skills or work on your vocabulary? Use the PSAT as an opportunity to analyze your strengths and weaknesses so that you can target your preparation for the SAT.


For information about scholarship programs contact:

National Merit Scholarship Corporation
1560 Sherman Avenue, Suite 200
Evanston, IL 60201-4897
(847) 866-5100

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