SAT vs PSAT: What's the difference?

SAT vs PSAT: What's the difference?

The SAT and PSAT are assessment tests administered by the College Board for college admissions across the US. Although PSAT is more of a preparatory version of the SAT and cosponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Both the tests are almost similar, though not exactly alike. The similarities reflect in terms of subjects, structure, scoring system and the best part is there is no guessing penalty in either of the tests.

Despite the similarities, the two tests differ to a discerning extent. Let’s explore some of the key differences between SAT and PSAT:

1. Objective

The most prominent difference is the objective of each test. As we all know that the SAT is a more desirable test for college admissions, the PSAT is just a preparatory test for the SAT, based on the National Merit Scholarship Program. In case you fare well in the PSAT, you are eligible to earn a scholarship under the National Merit Scholarship Program. On the contrary, high SAT scores hold good only for college admissions in institutes of repute. Ideally, the PSAT has no impact on your college applications.

2. Degree of Difficulty

As you proceed towards the different levels of tests, you are likely to encounter more competitive questions. Although this is quite expected as you might notice that the PSAT has more detailed kind of questions while the SAT has more theoretical and abstruse sorts of questions.

3. Score Scale

There is a distinct difference in the score range between the two tests. The SAT score range is on a scale of 400-1600, whereas the PSAT score range is on a scale of 320-1520. Notably, the scores differ on the basis of each section. On the SAT, the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing(EBRW) and Mathematics are calculated on a scale of 200-800. In comparison to this, the sections in PSAT are scored on a marginally lower scale of 160-760. The PSAT score typically gives you a rough notion about your SAT score and exhibits your degree of preparation.

4. Exam Time Slot

The amount of time allotted and the aggregate of questions for each section between the two assessment tests varies to a considerable extent. Interestingly, the SAT has more questions and is marginally longer than the PSAT, but the time allotment is technically the same. One distinct exception to the PSAT is that it awards you 13 seconds more per question in the Math No Calculator section in comparison to the SAT.

Given below is an outline of the question and timing dissimilarities between the SAT and PSAT:

Test

Section

Time

No.of Questions

Time /Question

SAT

Reading

65 minutes

52

75 seconds

Writing

35 minutes

44

48 seconds

Math(No Calculator)

25 minutes

20

75 seconds

Math(Calculator)

55 minutes

38

87 seconds

Essay(optional)

50 minutes

1

50 minutes

Total

180 minutes

154

(230 minutes along with essay)

(155 along with essay)

PSAT

Reading

60 minutes

48

75 seconds

Writing

35 minutes

44

48 seconds

Math(No Calculator)

25 minutes

17

88 seconds

Math(Calculator)

45 minutes

31

87 seconds

Total

165 minutes

139

 

5. Essay Writing

It may interest you to know that the PSAT has no essay. Only the SAT has an essay comprising of 50 minutes of exam time which is optional. It is wiser to take up the essay as it offers almost an additional hour to sit in the test. Although the essay writing is discretional, most colleges recommend it as this gives you an edge to score better in the SAT. Remember to train yourself properly before you plunge into the SAT.

6. Test Planning

The ultimate difference depends on planning for the tests in terms of cost, administration, and location. One big difference is the cost of the tests. The SAT costs about $46 without the Essay and $60 with the Essay. Comparatively, the PSAT typically costs $16. But of course, sometimes, it may be available for free for those students whose schools might be ready to bear the costs. The SAT is administered seven times during the school year, whereas the PSAT is held only once a year in October. You have the privilege to take the SAT on any designated school day. However, you are usually expected to take the PSAT during October each year. Considering the location, the SAT is conducted at both schools and test centers, while the PSAT is always held at schools only. Try to locate some local school, just in case your school does not offer the PSAT.

Finally, the key upshot from this discussion entails that if you are preparing either for the SAT or the PSAT, remember that your ultimate goal is to score good grades and get an admission in a good college. Try to integrate your study plan accordingly and prepare to achieve the best scores on the assessment tests.

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