PSAT vs SAT – What’s the difference?

So many students know about either the SAT exam or the ACT exam or both. They know it is used for admission purposes, but what about the PSAT? Of what use is it to the students? This article will enlighten you on PSAT vs SAT, what PSAT it is all about, and how it serves students.


This is an acronym that stands for Preliminary Scholarship Aptitude Test. This is used to train students on writing the main SAT exam, aids them to identify their areas of strengths and weakness and also puts in more effort on their weaknesses.

PSAT is used to prepare students to be able to take the SAT exam properly although the test is not as advanced as the SAT exam.

On the other hand, PSAT is also a form of exam students take to qualify for a particular scholarship called National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).

This exam comprises three sections: the Math section, the Writing and Language section, and the Reading section. PSAT takes a period of 2hours and 45 minutes with scores ranging from 320 to 1520, unlike SAT that ranges from 400 to 1600.


Sections of PSAT:

Maths section

This deals mainly with questions from algebra equations and your ability to solve problems critically. It is used to check your ability to analyze data. This section has a total of 17 questions to complete in 25 minutes.

The Writing and Language Test

This test is used to check your writing ability, your ability to correct mistakes in a sentence, and also check if the arrangement of an essay works or not. This section comprises 44 questions that ought to be completed in 35 minutes.

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The Reading Test

This particular section contains lots of reading passages to test your ability to read, comprehend, and answer questions with what you deduced from the comprehension passages.

The reading section also analyses how quickly you can absorb what you read if you can analyze charts and graphs to get the information. It has a total of 48 questions to be answered in 60 minutes. 

NB: Students receive their grades in an elaborate manner, which helps them know their stand on the SAT exam if they should go ahead and write the exam or work harder towards getting a better score. 


SAT, on the other hand, means the Scholastic Assessment Test. It is an exam students take to get admitted into a college (especially in the United States and Canada) once they are done with High School education.

The test is usually written manually and is being overseen by the College Board. Students have been writing this exam for over 90 years, and it has become a requirement for those who want to attend one college or another.

Read this: Certificate vs Degree – Which is Better?


Differences between PSAT and SAT

While these exams may look similar to someone, they are very different and also serve other purposes. 

  • The SAT exam can be used to gain entrance into the college or university, but this is not the same for the PSAT exam. The PSAT exam can be used to get the National Merit Scholarship. 
  • The PSAT exam can help you determine how your performance will be during your SAT exam. 
  • Having a low SAT score can affect your chances of getting into the university or college, but your PSAT doesn’t affect your admission into a college or university.
  • The SAT is offered seven times a year, while the PSAT is offered once a year. 
  • While the SAT has the essay part, which is optional, the PSAT hasn’t.

Similarities between PSAT and SAT

  • They operate within the same subjects and make use of similar topics during the exams.
  • The pattern of the exam is almost the same. 
  • Marks are not deducted when you get the wrong answer. 
  • If you did not answer any question at all, you get no mark in both exams.


Final tips:

PSAT is way of testing your ability before you get into the hall to write the main SAT exam. Most times, your PSAT score doesn’t determine your SAT, but do well to study well for the both exams.

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Obiorah Esther
Obiorah Esther
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