Difference Between SAT and PSAT

Difference Between SAT and PSAT

What is the difference between SAT and PSAT? The SAT and the PSAT are both parts of the SAT Suite of Assessments. Other tests that are part of the Suite of Assessments are PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9. Although the SAT and the PSAT have a lot of differences, the one thing they have in common is that they are both internationally recognized standardized tests that are used as a barometer to measure students’ reading, writing, and language skills, and math at a level that suits their grade as a way of preparing students for college and to help them meet their career goals.

The SAT is designed for 12th graders, although 11th graders can decide to take this test. 11th graders and 10th graders who choose to write the PSAT.

As an acronym, SAT has no meaning. Upon inception, the acronym stood for “Scholastic Aptitude Test.” This meaning was dropped as the test evolved. The test was in 1997, known as SAT I and SAT II, and consisted of the “Reasoning Tests” and “Subject Tests,” respectively. The tests later became the “SAT Reasoning Tests” and “SAT Subject Tests” following the elimination of the numbers. The name was simplified even further to become just SAT in 2016. PSAT stands for “Preliminary SAT” and comprises three tests: the PSAT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9.

The PSAT is usually called the “PSAT/NMSQT,” meaning “Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.”

In this article, we will be highlighting the major difference between SAT and PSAT. Let’s delve straight into it.

Difference Between SAT and PSAT: Purpose

SAT is a major basic requirement of most United States colleges and universities and even international colleges and universities. Using SAT scores, colleges compare students from different high schools and determine their strength and readiness for college work. The PSAT/NMSQT, on the other hand, is the preparation for the SAT, and for this reason, the question follows the same format as that of the SAT. Just like the SAT takers, students writing the PSAT/NMSQT can opt into the Student Search Service®, which enables them to receive communication directly from colleges.

The feature that makes the PSAT stand out from other SAT Suite of Assessments is that it is the only test amongst the rest that is the qualifying test for the National Merit® Scholarship Program.

Difference Between SAT and PSAT: Administration

The SAT is administered seven times a year. The test is administered in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. In addition, the test is also administered in the Fall and Spring for participating schools.

On the other hand, the PSAT/NMSQT is administered nationally on the same dates. The major test day for the PSAT/NMSQT is mid-October. There’s an additional Saturday date and an alternate test date that comes up later.

Number of Times You Can Take Each Test

This is also another major difference between SAT and PSAT. While students can only take PSAT-related assessments if their school is administering the test because it is within the jurisdiction of the school to purchase and administer the test, students can individually register for and write SAT multiple times. SAT takers are at liberty to choose any of the test dates that best suit their schedule. Because many schools, districts, and states participate in the SAT School Day, which usually takes place on select dates in the fall and spring, students are provided additional dates and testing opportunities.

Testing Locations

As an SAT taker, it is at your discretion to choose to write your test at any SAT testing center anywhere in the United States or the world. SAT testing centers are usually public schools or large private schools. So, if it so happens that you are still a student, you can choose to write your test at your high school.

Since you can only write PSAT-related assessments if your school chooses to administer the test, then you will be the test at the high school or middle school you attend.

Difference Between SAT and PSAT: Cost

The SAT is divided into SAT with Essay and SAT without Essay, just called SAT. SAT costs $52, while SAT with Essay costs $68. This price is subject to annual adjustment or change. SAT takers are eligible for fee waivers, especially low-income students who wish to take the test. International fees may apply if you are taking the test outside the United States.

The cost of PSAT-related assessments is determined solely by the school.

Difference Between SAT and PSAT: Length

On the one hand, SAT consists of one 35-minute writing and language test, one 25-minute no-calculator math test, and one 55-minute test that allows you the use of a calculator. The length of the SAT with Essay varies from the SAT. The SAT with Essay comprises an additional essay that you are to complete within 50 minutes. The SAT without Essay will take a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. This time frame includes breaks. The SAT with Essay takes a total of 4 hours and 7 minutes with breaks inclusive.

The PSAT/NMSQT, on the other hand, is made up of one 35-minute reading test, one 60-minute writing, and language test, one 25-minute no-calculator math test, and one 45-minute math test that allows the use of a calculator. Breaks inclusive; the entire PSAT/NMSQT lasts for 2 hours and 55 minutes. The PSAT 10 shares the same test format and time duration or length as the PSAT/NMSQT.


The SAT Suite of Assessments Tests are used to measure students reading, writing and language, and math skills at a level appreciated by the student taking the test. This is why the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT, and even the PSAT 10 test these skills at an advanced level. Additionally, only the SAT among the rest of the tests offers an optional Essay section. While some colleges mandate applicants to take the SAT with Essay as part of their application process, other schools don’t. The PSAT/NMSQT, on the other hand, has no essay section.

Scores and Scoring

The maximum total and section scores vary between tests in the SAT Suite of Assessments. The maximum total score that can be achieved on the SAT is 1600 points. The total score is divided into two sections—Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. The maximum score for each section is 800 points.

The highest total score achievable on the PSAT/NMSQT is 1520. Just like the SAT, the total score is divided into two sections—Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. Each section has a maximum of 760 points.

Now that you know the differences between the SAT and PSAT, we trust that you now know which of the tests to take.

Best Regards!

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Read Also: Ways To Improve Your SAT Score

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