There are a lot of misconceptions thrown around about both the PSAT and SAT, so the Higher Scores Test Prep team is here to debunk the myths.
While both tests are designed by College Board and intended to similarly assess where each student is at compared to their peers, there are a handful of differences when it comes to the PSAT vs SAT.
And they each serve separate, important purposes for college-bound high school students.
In fact, PSAT doesn’t even stand for Practice SAT as most people believe. It stands for Preliminary SAT.
Once you understand that and take it seriously, you can start setting yourself up for great success on the road to college and beyond.
This article will look at the PSAT vs SAT in terms of:
When do you take them
How long are they
What is tested
How are they scored
How to study for them
The most essential and powerful of these is probably how to study for them.
If you’d like expert help in achieving your highest possible scores, don’t hesitate to check out this SAT Complete Package course, which includes a free PSAT Quick Prep course.
You’ll also get free entrance to the very popular “Cash For College” course to start with the PSAT prep, then easily transition to the ACT or SAT to get into your dream college and learn the best ways to pay for it.
When And Where Do You Take The PSAT vs SAT?
Unlike the SAT and ACT, the PSAT is only offered once a year in the middle of October.
If you’re a junior, you’ve only got one official shot at it.
If you’re a sophomore or freshman, you can take the PSAT as a practice, but your score for the National Merit Scholarship doesn’t count until your junior year.
When it comes to the SAT and ACT, you can take them as many times as you want and they are each offered 7 times throughout the year- though experts don’t recommend taking them too many times. For the optimal numbers, check out this article on how many times to take the SAT or this article for how many times to take the ACT.
Additionally, the PSAT is tested at your high school, while the SAT can be taken at your school or hosted at an official testing center. So for the SAT you usually have to show your I.D. along with your ticket in order to test.
(Be sure to double-check all reservation requirements & info with your local school if you’re homeschooled.)
Format Of The PSAT VS SAT
The overall format of these two tests is close enough that the PSAT is a pretty accurate indicator of how you’ll do and what you need to work on when it comes to later taking the SAT.
Keep reading for the slight adjustments and fundamental differences.
How Long Is The PSAT? How Long Is The SAT?
The PSAT lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes.
The SAT is just over 3 hours.
Not a huge difference, but the PSAT is intended to be more compact and easier to get through.
Content Tested On PSAT vs SAT?
Since the assumption is that students taking the PSAT will be younger than those taking the SAT, the tests cover similar subjects but are aimed at different knowledge and ability levels.
Both cover the areas of:
- Reading comprehension,
- Writing and language concepts, and
- Math principles.
In a general sense, the idea is to test things you should already know or be learning in school. So make sure you’re paying attention and working on these skill set areas in classes to feel confident to encounter the tests.
Scoring Of The PSAT vs SAT
The scoring is scaled for both the PSAT and SAT, but the total numbers achievable for each test diverge.
For the PSAT, you’ll earn a score somewhere between 320-1520.
On the SAT, scores will range between 400-1600.
Those numbers are calculated (for both tests) from your raw score into your scaled score.
Your raw score is the total number of correct answers.
The College Board then converts your raw score according to the chart they have developed for that test to see what your scaled score is. Each test has a slightly different conversion chart like the one pictured below.
The reason for this process is that they are trying to standardize the scores by adjusting and accounting for variations in test difficulty so that no student is disadvantaged by where or when they took the test.
Tips For Taking The PSAT vs SAT
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to both the PSAT and the SAT is that there is no penalty for wrong answers.
Sure you don’t get the point, but you don’t lose a point either.
So don’t leave any questions unanswered.
Another biggie is if you’re reading this the night before the test and you have the choice between cramming or sleeping, definitely choose sleep.
The most important thing you can do is show up clear-headed and well-rested to do your best on the test.
For specifics beyond that, download this free but very useful Insiders Guide to the ACT & SAT for the fastest ways to improve your scores, whether you’re prepping for the PSAT or the SAT/ACT.
Other helpful resources focusing specifically on the PSAT vs SAT:
Lastly, do whatever you can to take the stress out of testing.
The truth is that you can certainly earn college money from your test scores, but these scores are still simply tools for helping you to figure out what you need to do in order to get where you want to go in life.
You have more options and more power at this moment than you think.
No college will ever see your PSAT scores.
And you could always try the ACT instead of the SAT if that feels like a better fit for you.
PSAT & SAT NEWS: Going Digital!
The PSAT will be offered in the new digital format being developed for fall 2023.
The SAT will not be digital until 2024 for international students and 2025 for students in the USA.
If you’re interested in more information, everything you need to know about the new digital PSAT and SAT is in this article and we’ll continue to update it as new information becomes available..
More questions? Reach out to the Higher Scores Team here and we’ll be happy to help you!