The PSAT/NMSQT is a test that can qualify you for scholarships and other honors. It can also help you start thinking about and planning for college, see which academic skills you need to work on, and get ready for college entrance exams, such as the SAT.

Here are the facts:

PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

It’s a test that measures the skills you’ve developed in reading, math and writing.

Typically, students take the test as juniors and sophomores, although some take it earlier.

The test is cosponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

If you’re a junior, your score might qualify you for scholarships.

Why Take the PSAT/NMSQT?

Taking the test can provide these benefits:

Scholarship opportunities. If you’re a junior, your score might qualify you for scholarships and recognition through the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the National Hispanic Recognition Program.

SAT practice. The PSAT/NMSQT is great practice for the SAT. Both tests have the same types of questions, and taking the PSAT/NMSQT can help you get comfortable testing under timed conditions.

Feedback. The test gives you personalized feedback on your skill strengths and weaknesses so you have a better idea of what study areas you need to work on.

Information from colleges. You can get free information from colleges and scholarship programs by opting in to Student Search Service® when you take the test.

College and career planning help. By taking the test, you get free access to My College QuickStart™, an online tool that helps you plan for college and a career. It also gives you a free, personalized SAT study guide based on your PSAT/NMSQT results.

Even though only juniors can qualify for scholarships and academic recognition, taking the PSAT/NMSQT before your junior year is also useful. You’ll have more time to use the information you get after taking the test to boost your academic skills and start planning for college.

What Is the Test Like?

The PSAT/NMSQT takes 2 hours and 10 minutes to complete. It is made up of five sections:

Two 25-minute critical reading sections

Two 25-minute math sections

One 30-minute writing-skills section

The critical reading sections include multiple-choice sentence completions and critical reading questions. The math sections include both multiple-choice questions and problem-solving. For the writing-skills section, students answer multiple-choice questions related to identifying sentence errors, improving sentences and improving paragraphs.

How Can I Prepare?

The PSAT/NMSQT tests current academic skills. You don’t need to remember specific facts from your classes. Taking challenging courses and reading a lot are really the best ways to prepare.

Here are some other steps you can take to get ready:

Find out when the test is. The test is given every October on two different test dates. Go to PSAT/NMSQT High School Search to find out on which date your school is giving the test. Visit your high school counselor or principal to get information about registering for the test and to pick up a copy of the PSAT/NMSQT Official Student Guide. Make sure you meet with someone who can help you well in advance of the test date.

Get familiar with the questions. Review the PSAT/NMSQT Official Student Guide to get familiar with the types of questions and the directions on the test.

Take practice tests. Take the full-length practice test inside the guide. You can get answer explanations online.

Get more information. Get tips on preparing for the test, access practice questions and find information about test registration and dates online.