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What is the PSAT?

Cosponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) — often shortened to PSAT — is a standardized test targeting 10th and 11th graders across the U.S. Every year approximately 3.5 million students take the PSAT test at various high schools.

As it stands, the PSAT is heavily connected to the SAT. One of the test's primary purposes is to act as a precursor to the SAT — essentially, as an SAT practice test. Thus, the PSAT and SAT heavily mirror each other in regard to content, structure, and even scoring.

But they're not identical. Here are some of the major differences between the PSAT and SAT:

• The SAT contains an optional Essay section, whereas the PSAT does not.

• The PSAT is slightly easier than the SAT.

• There are fewer questions on the PSAT than there are on the SAT.

The PSAT 8/9 targets even younger students; eighth and ninth graders. And it is administered in the fall and spring. Unlike the PSAT 10 or PSAT/NMSQT, the PSAT 8/9 uses a different scoring scale and is both shorter and easier than the PSAT 10.

PSAT Dates for 2018

• Primary test date: October 10, 2018

• Alternate test date: October 24, 2018

• Saturday test date: October 13, 2018