The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT. It also allows the student the opportunity to enter the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) Programs and it includes a career exploration component that stimulates students’ thinking about future college and career plans. The PSAT measures math-problem solving, critical reading and writing skills.

How is it structured?

The PSAT/NMSQT includes 5 sections: 2 critical reading, 2 math and 1 writing skills sections.


# of Questions

Time (min)

Critical Reading48150
Writing Skills39330

Total Time: 2 Hours and 10 minutes

1 – The Critical Reading section is made up of 13 sentence completion and 35 critical reading questions.
2 – The Math section is made up of 28 multiple choice and 10 grid-in questions of Number & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Probability, Stats and Data Analysis.
3 – The Writing Skills section is made up of 14 identifying sentence errors, 20 improving sentences and 5 improving paragraph questions.

 How is it scored?

Each of the three sections of the PSAT/NMSQT is scored on a scale of 20 to 80 points. The scores of all three sections are added to get a composite score; the highest composite score attainable is 240 points. According to the Archived PSAT/NMSQT data for College-Bound Juniors & Sophomores, in 2012, the average score for eleventh graders was about 48 in Critical Reading, 49 in Mathematics, and 47 in Writing Skills. The average score for tenth graders was about 43 in Critical Reading, 44 in Mathematics, and 42 in Writing Skills.

Also listed as part of the PSAT/NMSQT score report is the Selection Index (SI); the SI is used to determine eligibility in National Merit Scholarship Corporation programs (NMSC). The SI is the same thing as the composite score, which is the sum of the three scores in each test section: CR + M + W. It’s important to remember that only students in the eleventh grade are eligible to enter NMSC scholarship programs.

Finally, score reports include national percentiles, which allow you to compare your scores with other students in the same grade level who have taken the PSAT/NMSQT. Therefore, eleventh graders who take the PSAT/NMSQT will receive junior percentiles and tenth graders will receive sophomore percentiles.

Dolphin Academic Prep offers personalized PSAT/NMSQT tutoring!

Our experience with the PSAT/NMSQT test has enabled us to develop a highly effective approach for PSAT/NMSQT prep. In particular and in addition to developing the problem-solving techniques that are the crux of our test-prep tutoring, our Dolphin PSAT/NMSQT prep tutors also take care to emphasize the specific knowledge, concepts, strategies and skill sets required for success on the PSAT/NMSQT . We emphasize the kinds of problem-solving skills that will enable your student to effectively wrestle with unusual and/or unfamiliar question types. As part of the overall process, we also help our parents understand the PSAT/NMSQT’s score report and how it translates to your child.

Every student is different and therefore we believe it’s imperative that in order to maximize performance on the PSAT/NMSQT it is necessary to tailor the prep process to the individual student in an effort to develop the approach that best works for them.

Diagnostic, Evaluation and Practice
Before the first PSAT/NMSQT tutoring session, each student receives a diagnostic PSAT/NMSQT test. The diagnostic test gives the student an introduction to the test and PSAT/NMSQT test prep; it also allows for a baseline to be created. Moreover, based on the results, we formalize an evaluation that identifies the areas of strength, those areas that need the most help, specifies an optimal prep schedule, and sets specific goals. Throughout the PSAT/NMSQT test prep our Dolphin PSAT/NMSQT Tutors will continue to administer practice PSAT/NMSQT test like questions so that your child becomes familiar with the format, style and speed of the test, so on exam day it minimizes any surprises they may face.

More information

The PSAT/NMSQT is generally administered in high school; however, some schools offer students the chance to take it during their seventh and eighth grades. Individual schools or school systems decide if and when they want to administer the PSAT/NMSQT. If your child’s school offers the PSAT/NMSQT, registration will take place through the school. Contact your child’s guidance or college counselor to find out if and when your child will have the opportunity to take the PSAT/NMSQT.

For information on the SAT or the SAT Subject Tests, please click on it’s link to be directed to the exam’s page.

We are here to answer your questions, so give us a call or send us an email to see how personalized PSAT/NMSQT tutoring and College Guidance with a private Dolphin Academic Prep tutor can help benefit your student.

When is the PSAT/NMSQT offered?

Check to see when the PSAT/NMSQT is being offered.