College Readiness Tests: PSAT/NMSQT® and PSAT™ 10 Guide

The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT are designed to help students prepare for the SAT assessments. Most students take the PSAT/NMSQT during their junior year for the chance to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship program. This exam is great practice for the SAT, which is one of many deciding factors in your college admissions. It is also a good idea to take the PSAT 10 as a sophomore to familiarize yourself with the process, even though your scores will not count toward any competition. We have created a helpful guide for properly preparing for the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 and to give you an idea of what to expect.

Why should I take the PSAT/NMSQT® and PSAT™ 10?

The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is one of the SAT assessments. These types of exams are used to measure what you have learned so far in high school and what you still need to learn in order to be prepared for college. In addition to the NMSC, there are several other scholarship partners that offer awards to minorities and/or on a needs basis.

The PSAT 10 is not considered for scholarship opportunities, but it is good practice for the SAT assessments that will be significantly scored in the coming years. The best way to gauge your level of understanding and to familiarize yourself with the process is to practice in an official capacity.

When will I take the PSAT/NMSQT® or PSAT™ 10?

Your teachers and school counselors will have all the necessary information and testing schedules, but you can also read about the different exams on the CollegeBoard website. For sophomores, the PSAT 10 will be offered in the spring, but for juniors, the PSAT/NMSQT is scheduled for the middle of October.

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How can I register?

Technically, your high school guidance counselor will orchestrate the registration process and help you through the testing procedures. They will also be your best point of contact after the test. There is a fee of $16 for each exam, but that is usually covered by the school. If you are unsure if your school hosts the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10, just ask your guidance counselor. If the tests are not offered at the school you attend, ask if they can assist you in finding a school in the area where they are available for you to participate. Your advisor can set you up to test at another school. Another resource to find answers to commonly asked questions regarding the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 is College Board’s PSAT/NMSQT® or PSAT™ 10 information page.

How should I prepare?

Preparing for either the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 should not overwhelm you if you have shown dedication to your studies, by completing all your homework assignments, attending classes, and participating. The more you challenge yourself in class selection, the more likely it is that you will be familiar with the material you will be tested on. It may be a good idea to take practice tests and familiarize yourself with sample questions. There are several free online options to help sharpen your skills including reviewing our study tips for additional help. 

Are you curious about what type of questions will be asked in each section? Explore the test examples below:

Upcoming Test Dates:

The PSAT/NMSQT is offered in the fall and the PSAT 10 is offered in the spring. Because your guidance counselor manages your school’s testing, it is best to ask him or her for the specific test date.

2020 Anticipated PSAT/NMSQT Testing Schedule

  • Primary Test Day: Wednesday, October 14, 2020
  • Saturday Test Day: Wednesday, October 17, 2020
  • Alternate Test Day: Wednesday, October 28, 2020

2020- PSAT 10 Testing Dates
Schools and districts schedule PSAT 10 administrations during these dates:

  • February 24–March 27, 2020
  • April 14–30, 2020

What do I need on test day?

Your teachers and guidance counselors are fully equipped to make sure you have a successful testing experience. For reassurance, feel free to visit CollegeBoard’s Test Day Checklist.

More Helpful Guides:

Test Prep Guides

SAT and ACT Study Tips

Which is Right for You: SAT or ACT?

Why You Should Visit Your Guidance Counselor (Early College Prep)