Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test
Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT)/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMQST) is a standardized test conducted jointly by College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation( NMSC) in the United States of America. Each year around 1.5 million students take the test including high school sophomores, juniors, freshmen, eighth and seventh graders. It provides firsthand practice of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and access to college and career planning tools.
The scores of PSAT are used to determine eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP). Eligibility criteria for applying for NMSP are:
- Student should be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. lawful permanent resident and intend to become U.S. citizen
- Student should be in high school and willing to enrol in college full time after graduating from his or her high school
- Student should take PSAT/ NMSQT in the specified year of high school and no later than third year from standard 9 to 12
Students can't register for PSAT online as they have to register for it through their high schools which are members of the college board. The test measures critical reasoning skills, math problem solving skills and writing skills and it doesn't require you to recall specific facts from your academic syllabus. The test is thus composed of three sections: Math, Critical Reading and Writing Skills, and the time duration of the test is two hours and ten minutes. Each section is scored on a scale of 20 to 80 points, meaning you can get a maximum score of 240. This test is mostly multiple choice, yet there are 10 open response math questions which requires the student to enter the response on a grid. Use of calculator is permitted for solving maths questions.
The sum of scores of the three sections is called Selection Index which along with four general criteria for eligibility is used for selection in both preliminary and primary selection in National Merit Scholarship Programs. Out of one and half million candidates, around fifty thousand those having maximum selection index scores qualify to be recognized in NMSP. That is, almost top three percent of candidates from eleventh standard will be declared qualified. The Selection Index qualifying scores change each year and with each and every state. In the month of September high scorers are notified via their schools.
In month of September, approximately two-third of these fifty thousand students will be given commendation letters which recognizes candidates academic qualities and potential. The students getting commendation letters are not eligible for NMSP and the remaining one third of the fifty thousand students are declared qualified as NMSP semi-finalists. After qualifying as semi-finalist the student must complete NMSP scholarship application and make submission of application to National Merit Scholarship Corporation for being able to advance to next level of NMSP and so that he/she be taken into account for the merit scholarships. For being considered for the NMSP, semi-finalists should climb to the final group of students by maintaining excellent academic standards and other guidelines made available to each semi-finalist.
In February next year, around fifteen thousand semi-finalists are notified via mail at their residential address that they have been selected among final students for scholarships. All the winners of scholarship awards are selected from the final group of students, according to their academic performance, qualities and achievements. Starting from March up to June NMSC sends mails to eight thousand finalists at their residential addresses that they have been selected to receive a NMSP Scholarship award.
By giving PSAT you will get an idea about your performance in college admissions test and more importantly it will help in preparing for SAT. So, it is recommended to take PSAT/NMSQT when you are in high school as you will receive a feedback on your weakness and strengths necessary for college studies thus making it easier for you to get into a good college.