SAT vs. PSAT – What’s the Difference?
While the SAT and PSAT-related assessments have a lot in common, they have differences when it comes to how and where you take the assessments, what your scores mean, and more.
Let’s take a look at such differences as test names, purpose, content, scoring, and cost with this deep dive into the SAT Suite of Assessments.
What Is the SAT Suite of Assessments?
The SAT Suite of Assessments is made up of the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9. The tests, created by the College Board, measure the same skills and knowledge at a level that is appropriate for the different grade levels taking the tests.
Typically, 11th and 12th graders take the SAT, 10th or 11th graders take the PSAT/NMSQT, 10th graders take the PSAT 10, while 8th and 9th graders take the PSAT 8/9. All assessments in the suite test reading, writing and language, and math skills.
The overarching goal of the SAT Suite of Assessments is to make it easy for students, parents, and teachers to understand and monitor student progress toward college readiness.
The Difference Between the SAT and the PSAT: Names
What Does “SAT” Stand For?
Today, “SAT” has no meaning as an acronym. The SAT acronym originally stood for “Scholastic Aptitude Test” but as the test evolved the acronym’s meaning was dropped.
In 1997, the main test became known as the “SAT I: Reasoning Test” while the individual subject exams, known as “Achievement Tests”, became the “SAT II: Subject Tests.” The numbers were later eliminated, and the tests became known as the “SAT Reasoning Test” and “SAT Subject Tests”. The name simplified even further to just “SAT” when it was redesigned as an achievement test in 2016, though students will often still encounter all the different name variations.
What Does “PSAT” Stand For?
“PSAT” stands for “Preliminary SAT” but has no meaning on its own as there is no single test, but rather three PSAT-related assessments: the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9.
The Difference Between the SAT and the PSAT-Related Assessments: Purpose
Why Take the SAT?
The SAT is an admissions test accepted by all U.S. colleges and many international colleges and universities. SAT scores help colleges compare students from different high schools. Your scores show your strengths and readiness for college work. But remember, scores are just one part of your college application, along with grades, course rigor, and recommendations.
Why Take the PSAT/NMSQT?
The PSAT/NMSQT is practice for the SAT. Its sections and questions follow the same format. As with the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT takers have a chance to opt in to the Student Search Service® and receive communications directly from colleges. What makes the PSAT/NMSQT unique from the rest of the tests in the SAT Suite of Assessments is that it’s the qualifying test for the National Merit® Scholarship Program. The top performers on the PSAT/NMSQT can qualify for scholarships and recognition from this prestigious award program.
Why Take the PSAT 10?
Like the PSAT/NMSQT, the PSAT 10 is practice for the SAT and familiarizes students with the types of questions they will see on that test. While the PSAT 10 does not qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship Program, it also provides them the opportunity to opt in to the Student Search Service. The PSAT 10 will give you an indication of how you will perform on the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT and the score report provides useful information on academic strengths and weaknesses. PSAT 10 takers also receive access to Roadtrip Nation’s career roadmap and potential AP course recommendations.
Why Take the PSAT 8/9?
The PSAT 8/9 is often a student’s first experience with the SAT Suite of Assessments and it includes the same types of questions students will see on the other tests. It’s a low-stakes test, meaning colleges and scholarship programs will never see the score. It’s used as an early barometer to identify areas of study that may need work.
The Difference Between the SAT and PSAT-Related Assessments: Who Takes Them and When
Who Can Take the SAT?
While anyone can take the SAT, most students take it in 11th or 12th grade in preparation for college applications. If you are 12 years old or younger or 21 years old or older, read about SAT registration for younger students or SAT registration for test-takers over the age of 21.
Who Can Take the PSAT/NMSQT?
The PSAT/NMSQT is usually taken by 10th or 11th graders.
Who Can Take the PSAT 10?
The PSAT 10 is intended for 10th graders.
Who Can Take the PSAT 8/9?
The PSAT 8/9 is intended for 8th and 9th graders.
When Is the SAT Administered?
The SAT is administered nationally seven times a year, in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. There are also school day administrations in the fall and spring for participating schools.
See upcoming SAT test dates, which include anticipated test dates through 2021, and SAT registration deadlines.
When Is the PSAT/NMSQT Administered?
Unlike the other PSAT-related assessments, the PSAT/NMSQT is administered nationally on the same dates.
The primary test day for the PSAT/NMSQT is in mid-October, with an additional Saturday date and alternate test date a bit later. For example, the 2018 PSAT/NMSQT will be administered Wednesday, October 10, 2018. The Saturday test day and alternate test day will be October 13 and October 24, respectively.
Learn more about PSAT/NMSQT test dates.
When Is the PSAT 10 Administered?
The PSAT 10 is only offered in the spring. However, schools can administer the PSAT 10 any time during two roughly four-week windows. In 2019, these will be February 25–March 29 and April 1–26.
When Is the PSAT 8/9 Administered?
It is up to the schools administering the PSAT 8/9 to choose when students will take the test. This can range anywhere from late September to April with certain dates blacked out.
The Difference Between the SAT and PSAT-Related Assessments: How Many Times Can You Take Them
How Many Times Can You Take the SAT?
Unlike PSAT-related assessments, which you generally only take if your school is administering them,
you can register for and take the SAT multiple times, selecting the administration dates that work best for you. Additionally, many schools, districts, and states participate in SAT School Day, which take place on select dates in the fall and spring, providing students additional dates and testing opportunities.
How Many Times Can You Take PSAT-Related Assessments?
Schools purchase and administer PSAT-related assessments, so students do not register for those tests directly. This means that the PSAT 8/9 or PSAT 10 are usually taken when the school decides to administer them, while the PSAT/NMSQT is administered nationally on designated dates. Theoretically, students could take the PSAT 8/9 up to two times (once in 8th grade and once in 9th grade). Depending on the school, a 10th grader could take either the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall or the PSAT 10 in the spring. The PSAT/NMSQT can only be taken once per school year, and schools can offer it to students in 10th or 11th grade. In fact, many schools offer it to both grades.
The Difference Between SAT and PSAT-Related Assessments: Registering
How to Register for the SAT
Students can individually register to take the SAT through their College Board account, selecting the test type, test date, and test center that works for them.
An increasing number of students are also participating in SAT School Day administrations, which take place during the week instead of the traditional Saturday. For these SAT administrations, the school selects the test date and either electronically registers students or has them fill out registration information on their SAT answer sheet.
How to Register for PSAT-Related Assessments
Unlike the SAT, which you can register for individually, schools purchase and administer PSAT-related assessments. If your school is administering the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or PSAT 8/9, you can sign up to participate at your school. Some schools may require their students to take the exam.
If you are homeschooled, you will need to sign up to take PSAT-related assessments at a local school that is administering them.
The Difference Between the PSAT-Related Assessments and the: SAT: Testing Locations
Where Do You Take the SAT?
You can sign up to take the SAT at any testing center around the U.S. or the world. SAT testing centers are typically schools. Many public schools and larger private schools serve as testing centers, so if you attend one of these, you may be able to take the SAT at your high school.
Find your nearest SAT testing center.
Where Do You Take PSAT-Related Assessments?
Because you can only take PSAT-related assessments if your school chooses to administer the tests, you will take the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9 at your middle school or high school.
The Difference Between the PSAT-Related Assessments and the SAT: Cost
How Much Does It Cost to Take the SAT?
For administration dates after July 1, 2018, the SAT costs $47.50 and the SAT with Essay costs $64.50. These costs are often adjusted annually.
Other fees can apply for special registration and additional score services. Learn more about these SAT service fees.
Fee waivers are available to low-income students who want to take the SAT and SAT Subject tests. Find out if you are eligible for a fee waiver for the SAT.
International fees can apply if you are taking the SAT outside of the U.S. and its territories. Learn more about international fees for the SAT.
How Much Does It Cost to Take the PSAT-Related Assessments?
The PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9 tests are billed to the school at a set fee per student. Many schools cover all or part of the cost for their students. If you have not received details from your school, ask your school counselor for clarification.
The Difference Between the PSAT-Related Assessments and the SAT: Length
How Long Is the SAT?
The SAT consists of one 65-minute reading test, one 35-minute writing and language test, one 25-minute no-calculator math test, and one 55-minute math test on which you can use a calculator. If you are opting to take the SAT with Essay, you will have 50 minutes to complete the essay. With breaks, the entire SAT with no Essay takes 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. The SAT with Essay and breaks takes 4 hours and 7 minutes.
How Long Are the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10?
The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT are composed of one 60-minute reading test, one 35-minute writing and language test, one 25-minute no-calculator math test, and one 45-minute math test on which you can use a calculator. With breaks, the entire PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 take 2 hours and 55 minutes each.
How Long Is the PSAT 8/9?
The PSAT 8/9 consists of one 55-minute reading test, one 30-minute writing and language test, one 20-minute no-calculator math test, and one 40-minute math test on which you can use a calculator. With breaks, the entire PSAT 8/9 takes 2 hours and 35 minutes.
The Difference Between the SAT and PSAT-Related Assessments: Content
The SAT Suite of Assessments tests reading, writing and language, and math skills at a level that is appropriate for the students taking the exam. For example, the PSAT 8/9 will test skills at an 8th- or 9th-grade level, while the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 10 will test skills at a more advanced level. Additionally, only the SAT offers an optional essay section. Some colleges require you to take the SAT with Essay as part of your application, while others do not. The PSAT-related assessments do not have an essay section.
The Difference Between the SAT and PSAT-Related Assessments: Scores and Scoring
SAT and PSAT-Related Assessments Scoring
While the maximum total and section scores vary between tests in the SAT Suite of Assessments, one thing they all share in common is that there is no penalty for guessing.
How Is the SAT Scored?
The maximum total score you can achieve on the SAT is 1600 points, which is calculated by combining two section scores—Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math—each out of a maximum possible 800 points. The section scores are scaled from a raw score out of 40 points on three tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.
How Are the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT Scored?
The highest total score you can achieve on the PSAT 10 or PSAT/NMSQT is 1520. This is calculated by combining two section scores—Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math—each out of a maximum possible 760 points. The section scores are calculated from your raw score out of 38 points on three tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.
How Is the PSAT 8/9 Scored?
The maximum total score you can get on the PSAT 8/9 is 1440. This consists of two section scores—Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math—each out of a maximum possible 720 points. The section scores are calculated from your raw score out of 36 points on three tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.
Who Sees Your SAT scores?
Colleges and scholarship programs only see a student’s SAT scores when the student has specifically designated them as recipients. Students can select these recipients prior to taking the test or later. Learn more about how to send SAT scores.
Who Sees Your PSAT/NMSQT Scores?
The College Board sends your PSAT/NMSQT scores to your school, and in most cases, your school district and state as well. Schools can also send your score report to your parents. Students can see their PSAT/NMSQT scores online in the Student Score Portal.
The College Board does not send PSAT/NMSQT scores to colleges. However, because the PSAT/NMSQT is the official qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program, National Merit Scholarship Corporation, as co-sponsor of the test, receives all scores. For students who meet the eligibility requirements, scores are also sent to these scholarship programs automatically:
National Hispanic Recognition Program
National Scholarship Service
Telluride Seminar Scholarships
If you do not want your scores to be released to the above organizations, write to the PSAT/NMSQT Program by October 31 of the year you take the test at this address:
P.O. Box 6720
Princeton, NJ 08541-6720
Information is also shared with additional scholarship partners when you opt in to Student Search Service on test day or afterwards on Big Future. This helps scholarship providers connect with you and reach out about opportunities and money for college. These scholarship programs include:
American Indian Graduate Center
Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund
George Snow Scholarship Fund
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Horatio Alger Association
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
The Jackie Robinson Foundation
Ron Brown Scholar Program
United Negro College Fund
Washington State Opportunity Partnership
Who Sees Your PSAT 10 Scores?
As with the PSAT/NMSQT, the College Board sends your PSAT 10 scores to your school, and in most cases, your school district and state. Schools can also send your PSAT 10 score report to your parents. Students can view their PSAT 10 scores online in the Student Score Portal.
Colleges do not receive your PSAT 10 scores. Your PSAT 10 scores are not part of the college admission process. PSAT 10 scores are not automatically sent to the partner scholarship organizations as with the PSAT/NMSQT.
If you opt in on your answer sheet, some of your information (but not your individual score) will be sent to the Student Search Service® to help match you with colleges and scholarship opportunities. Both the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT connect you to the additional scholarship opportunities with the providers listed above.
Learn more about who sees your PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 scores.
Who Sees Your PSAT 8/9 Scores?
The College Board sends your PSAT 8/9 scores to your high school, and in many cases, your school district and state. Schools may send score reports to your parents. Students can also see their scores online in the Student Score Portal.
Colleges do not receive your PSAT 8/9 scores and they play no part in the college admission process.
Learn more about who sees your PSAT 8/9 scores.
What Is the Difference Between the SAT and PSAT-Related Assessments?
While the SAT Suite of Assessments differ in terms of scoring, registration, and length, the common thread they share is that they test students’ skills in reading, writing and language, and math at the level that is appropriate for their grade to help students meet their college and career goals.
Source: The College Board, June 29, 2018