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Introduction to the PSAT
Information provided by

The PSAT gives high-school juniors a chance to qualify for National Merit Scholarship Corporation scholarship programs. It's given once a year, in October, mostly to juniors and sophomores.

Like the SAT, but Shorter
The PSAT is a little bit more than two hours long. It consists of two twenty-five minute Verbal sections, two twenty-five minute Math sections, and one half-hour Writing Skills section.

The PSAT is great practice for the SAT. Although it's shorter than the SAT, the PSAT has all the question-types and tests much the same knowledge. Virtually all of the techniques and strategies that apply to the PSAT also apply to the SAT.

You take the PSAT during October of your junior year of high school.

When to Take the PSAT
The PSAT scores that are counted for scholarships and other awards are from your junior year. Many students take the PSAT as sophomores, though, for practice. This gives you risk-free exposure to the exam's format, question-types, and content. You can compare your test-run score to SAT I scores achieved by students at colleges on your wish list. If your scores are low, compared to the college averages, you may want to begin formal preparation for the PSAT and SAT I. Since the exam is designed to test skills acquired over a period of time, early preparation is often the only way to see a significant increase in your test scores.

Practice PSAT Math Questions

In May, Gina sold 40 percent more magazine subscriptions than she had in April. In June, she sold 20 percent more subscriptions than she had in May. The number of magazine subscriptions Gina sold was what percent greater in June than in April?
(A) 60
(B) 64
(C) 68
(D) 72
(E) 80


Directions: Answer (A) if the quantity in Column A is greater; (B) if the quantity in Column B is greater; (C) if the two quantities are equal (D) if the relationship cannot be determined from the information given Square A has sides of length x and square B has sides of twice this length.

Column A
Area of square A

Column B
Half the area of square B


Answers and Explanations

1. C
One of the strategies Kaplan teaches is to pick numbers in problems. Since we are not given a number for how many subscriptions Gina sold in April, let's pick a number. Let's pick 100. When you have a percent problem and numbers are not provided, you should always pick 100 because it is easy to work with. In April, let's say Gina sold 100 magazines. We are told that in May she sold 40 percent more magazine subscriptions than she had in April so the number she sold in May is 100 plus 40 percent of 100, or 140. In June, Gina sold 20 percent more subscriptions than she did in May. Well, in May she sold 140 subscriptions and 20 percent of 140 is 20 percent times 140 or 28. Therefore, in June, Gina sold 140 plus 28 subscriptions, or 168 subscriptions. The percent that the number of magazine subscriptions sold in June, 168, is greater than the number sold in April, 100, is 68 percent, answer choice (C).

2. B
In this question, we are given that one square, A, has sides of length x and a second square, B, has sides of twice this length (or 2x), and we are asked to compare the area of A to one half the area of B. The first thing you should do is draw a diagram. (You should draw a diagram when you are not provided with one or when you are given one that is not drawn to scale.) If you draw the squares somewhat carefully, the answer becomes obvious. Figured out mathematically, the area of a square is the side squared. Column A will, then, yield a square with area x2. Column B will yield a square with area 4x2. x2 compared to 2x2 gives us an answer choice of (B) because 2x2 is greater. You could have picked numbers for the sides of the squares and would have still come out with Column B being greater.

How Is the PSAT Scored?

PSAT scores are not reported to colleges, so you can take this test without fear that your score will affect your chances of admission.

Your Score Report
The PSAT score report will give you your scores and percentiles (how your scores compare with those of other students throughout the country), but also your estimated SAT I scores (Verbal and Math) and your estimated SAT II Writing score. You'll find question-by-question feedback, too, and information about National Merit Scholarship eligibility. All of this is to help you to understand your scores and performance on the PSAT.

Raw vs. Scaled
Your raw score (the number of questions right and wrong) is converted to a scaled score, although for PSAT ETS drops the final zero to distinguish it from the SAT scores. PSAT scores, therefore, range from 20 to 80 on the Math, Verbal, and Writing Skills Sections.

National Merit Scholarships
The PSAT score is the beginning of the qualifying process for National Merit Scholars and other awards. To determine National Merit Scholarship eligibility, each sub-score (each individual Verbal, Math, and Writing score) is given equal weight.

For more information on the PSAT, visit

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