What is the Difference Between the SAT and the PSAT?

What is the Difference Between the SAT and the PSAT

Table of Contents

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) have a lot more differences than just the additional letter in one of their names and this article explores some of them. 

When it comes to the numerous assessments that College Board offers, it can be a little confusing on what each test deals with. 

Hence, it is important to know exactly what you are getting into so that you can make an appropriate decision on which exams to register for. 

The College Board administers the SAT, which is a standardized test that is broadly recognized for admissions in the United States. It is a three-hour-long multiple-choice test with two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. 

The total score for the SAT is 1600, with each section scored out of 800. In order to ease your way into the ivy leagues, it is highly recommended to ensure that your SAT score is above 1450. 

The general SAT consists of two major sections, math, and evidence-based writing and reading. As of 2021-22, the general SAT costs $55 for students residing in the United States. 

However, this fee can vary based on whether you register by phone, make alterations to an existing registration, if you are admitted to administration through the waitlist or if you register during the late registration period. 

Students taking up the SAT outside the United States must pay additional regional fees. The PSAT is considered a practice test of the SAT. The PSAT’s are considered a base for the national merit scholarship test that US citizen students are eligible to take. 

If you receive a high score on the PSAT in your junior year, you will be one of the eligible students to acquire a portion of the $180 million that is usually awarded. 

Like the SAT’s, the PSAT’s also have two major sections, math and evidence-based writing and reading for which each of the sections have multiple choice questions. 

Unlike the SAT’s, the duration of this exam is only 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

Furthermore, The usual cost of the PSAT is covered by the highschool, however a fee of $16 is paid for the textbooks additional to any possible costs for the administration of the test. As for international students, the fees vary depending on their region. 

In order to secure a spot in the 99th percentile, which is a top category that makes you eligible for the scholarship, a composite score of between 1370-1520 is preferred. Each section has a maximum of 760 points and the score of the total test is awarded out of 1520 points only. 

Some of the key differences between the SAT and PSAT are

Their purposes

The SAT is majorly taken to assess the readiness for your undergraduate admissions. Although the PSAT score is not directly used for the admission process, it acts as a primer for your SAT score

The difficulty of the tests

PSAT’s are usually taken by the 10th and 11th students hence the difficulty of the test is lower than that of the SAT’s which are taken by the students in the 11th and 12th grade. 

The total duration of each of the tests

The SAT’s is 4 hours, however, for the PSAT’s, it’s only 2 hours and 45 minutesThis is because of the additional questions in the SAT’s than the PSAT’s.

The option of writing an essay

In the SAT’s, they provide an optional essay section, however, for the PSAT’s, there is no essay section as such.

The scoring

In the SAT’s, each section is 800 points thus adding to a total of 1600 pointsThe individual section’s scoring ranges from a 200-800 point scale. 

However, in the PSAT’s, the maximum score for each section is 760 therefore only adding up to a total of 1520 points. The individual section’s scoring ranges from a 160-760 point scale.

The number of attempts

For the SAT’s, students are allowed to take the SAT multiple times in a year to improve their average score for admission. The months in which the SAT’s are conducted across the world are August, October, November, December, March, May and June. 

However, for the PSAT’s, it is only administered once a year in October, usually, from the 9th through the 11th grade. However, the SAT and PSAT can be similar in more ways than you think.

Also Read: Top 10 IB Schools in Gurgaon

Some of the similarities between the SAT and PSAT are

The structure and format

The structure of both tests are practically identical because both tests are paper-pencil test divided in two sections which is the evidence-based reading & writing section and mathematics.

The type of questions

The questions asked in both tests are in a similar format where each question has 4 possible multiple choice answers in the reading & writing section. However, in the mathematics portion, in addition to the multiple-choice questions, there are student-produced response questions as well.

There are no penalties

For any wrong answer in either of the tests, there is no penalty given.

The topics of the tests

The topics on which the tests are based are the same for both the SAT and the PSAT. For the math sections, you are majorly assessed based on your knowledge of Algebra, Trigonometry, Data Analysis, Arithmetic, and some Geometry. 

In the reading section, the passages given to you are based on literature, social sciences, historical documents and natural sciences. Lastly, for writing & language, grammar, vocabulary in context and editing skills are assessed with the aid of passages.

The multiple scores on the report

Firstly, there is a composite score which is the total individual score of the evidence-based reading & writing section and mathematics. 

Additionally, there are two separate scores for each of the sections; evidence-based reading & writing section and mathematics. 

Finally, the SAT and PSAT score also have two cross-test scores and seven sub-scores.

The preparation

The way both the tests are prepared for are similar since an equal amount of effort needs to be put in the PSAT as it is considered as a base for the National Merit Scholarship eligibility test.

Now that you are aware of the similarities and differences between the SAT and PSAT, it is upto you to decide to take up the PSAT before the SAT. 

If you believe that it will really help boost your SAT score in the long run, then go for it!

Further Reading:

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