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PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test)

A standardized test generally taken by college-bound high school students

Common clue: High school junior's exam

Crossword puzzle frequency: 2 times a year

News: The big question: A few junior tips for summer

The PSAT/NMSQT, or "Preliminary-SAT"/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, is a multiple choice standardized test generally taken by juniors, sophomores, and freshmen in the United States. An estimted 1.3 million students took the test in 2004. The test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) for the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

The test and scores

The test is composed of three sections: Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Writing. Each section is worth eighty points, which add up to a maximum composite score of 240 points. The PSAT scores are graded on a similar scale to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) test. Each section is scored on a scale of 20 to 80 points (lower scores are possible, but are discarded). Each section on the SAT is graded on a scale of 200 to 800, allowing a PSAT score to predict a comparable SAT score (the difference is mainly to help distinguish from which test a score comes). However, unlike the New SAT (2005), the New PSAT does not include higher-level math (i.e. concepts from Algebra 2) or an essay in its writing section (the section is new to the SAT in 2005). The addition of the three scores is known as the Selection Index and is used, along with four general criteria for eligibility, to determine priliminary selection in the National Merit Scholarship Competition.


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