PSAT vs SAT: What's the difference?

PSAT vs SAT: What's the difference?

With reference to the SAT exam, there is so much confusion among students. Hence, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the exam before opting for one by clearing all doubts.

The SAT Suites of Assessments is an integrated system made up of PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT and SAT which are basically similar. Also, the student can practice any one exam to prepare for the other. However, there are some dissimilarities between the PSAT and SAT exams.

SAT Suite of Assessments

PSAT 8/9- The PSAT 8/9 exam is suitable for 8th or 9th graders to discover any specific areas that require focus before the student finishes the higher grade.

PSAT 10- The PSAT 10 exam is suitable for students studying in 10th grade and is usually taken during spring. 

PSAT/NMSQT- The PSAT/NMSQT exam is held in fall and is intended for students of 10th or 11th grade. This exam is again a checkpoint to ascertain if a student needs to strengthen in any specific skill. It also gives students a chance to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

SAT- The SAT exam is a sign of whether the student is eligible for the college or not.

Similarities between PSAT and SAT

Content- In terms of content, both PSAT and SAT are the same. They have vocab and algebra in writing questions.

Basic questions- The main aim of evaluation in both exams is similar. These exams consist of two components.

  • Evidence-based reading and writing (EBRW)

  • Math

The essay is optional. 

EBRW has reading, writing, and language tests whereas math is divided into two sections. In one section, a calculator is allowed and the other doesn’t permit the use of a calculator. In both PSAT and SAT math, there are multiple-choice and grid-in questions.

No penalty for guessing- There is no penalty for wrong answers in both exams. Therefore, the end score will not be affected even if a student marks any answer wrong.

Cross Test scores and Subscores- Students are awarded cross-test scores and subscores in both the exams.

Now let’s look at the key differences.

Key Differences between PSAT and SAT

Purpose of the exam- SAT exam is primarily a prerequisite for college admissions whereas PSAT is more like a practice test that determines the preparedness for the main exam. 

The PSAT has no influence on college admissions but a low SAT score might have a negative impact on the college a student chooses.

Score range- The SAT exam is calculated on a scale of 400 to 1600 whereas PSAT is scored between 320 and 1520. PSAT is a little less difficult when compared to the SAT exam.

Timing- The SAT exam is 15 minutes longer than the PSAT exam. If the student opts to take the essay component as well, he/she will have 60 minutes more of testing. However, the essay is optional.

Essay- Although the essay is an elective section of the SAT exam, many students opt to take the essay part. PSAT exam doesn’t have an essay section.

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