5 Things a High School Student Should Know about the PSAT and PreACT



Nakia Harmon, Opinion Editor

What is the PSAT and PACT?

The PSAT is the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test which is also known as the PSAT/NMQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). The PSAT can be taken by students from as early as the eighth grade to as late as the eleventh grade. The PSAT can only be administered by a high school to its students once a year unless the high school student is a sophomore who has the option of taking the PSAT 10 and  PSAT/NMQT which are administered different times during the school year. The PreACT is the Practice American College Testing, and the PreACT is administered to all sophomores in high school at the high school that they attend. The scores that result from the PSAT and PreACT are not taken into consideration on college admissions applications. Although the scores that result from the PSAT and PreACT are not held against a student’s eligibility for acceptance into a college, the PSAT scores of juniors in high school gives them eligibility to receive the National Merit Scholarship. 


Why is taking the PSAT and PreACT important?

The questions given on the PSAT resemble the questions that are given on the SAT. The results given back to a student who has taken the PSAT reflect to how well that student will perform on the SAT. The time given to take the PSAT is three hours due to the three additional five minute breaks ingrained into the testing period after every hour of testing. The SAT testing period lasts for three hours and 15 minutes since breaks are incorporated into the testing period. The amount of time given in the testing period of the PSAT models the amount of time given to students while taking the SAT to stimulate how a student should manage their time in each core portion of the SAT. When a student takes the PSAT as a junior in high school, the student’s score goes towards a student’s eligibility of receiving a National Merit Scholarship. The scores allow a student to see where they rank in two percentiles compared to the other students in their grade. The Nationally Representative sample percentile score shows a student how well they did compared to the scores of other students in the United States in their grade. The User Percentile which is also referred to as the National percentile score compares a student’s score to that of the other PSAT takers in that student’s grade in the United States.

 Taking the PreACT is important as well. The results given back to a student regarding their performance on the PreACT not only allows a student to see the areas in which there needs to be an improvement, but the student also receives their very own view of interests associated with their college and career alignment results from the questions that students on the Interest Inventory of the PreACT. The testing period for the PreACT lasts for two and a half hours which includes the break time and additional 60 minutes to complete activities before answering the core portions of the PreACT. The testing period for the ACT is three hours and 30 minutes which includes the breaks that are given. The time given in the PreACT models the time given in the ACT to allow students to learn how to utilize test taking skills when given a limited amount of time while testing like the time given to take the PSAT. 


How is the PSAT and PreACT Scored?

The four sections of the PSAT are evidence based reading, writing and language, math with usage of calculator permitted, and math with usage of calculator allowed. The scoring of the PSAT involves every correct answer being counted since every correct answer counts as one point toward your raw score due to points not being deducted for guessing. Then, the scaled score would be found which resulted from the raw score being converted. The range for the scaled school is 160 to 760 for each section. A student’s composite number results from the combination of scaled score for each section which will range from 320 to 1520.  

The PreACT consists of four sections which are reading, english, math, and science. The scoring for the PreACT involves first finding number of correct answers which corresponds to a number between one to 35 for the scare score. 


What is the National Merit Scholarship?

The exact PSAT score that a student has to receive to be considered for National Merit depends on the year and state. The cutoff score for the National Merit Semifinalists in the state of Georgia in Oct. 2017 was 220. The individual test scores of student’s PSATwhich range from eight to 38 are the most important when being considered for this scholarship. 

When is the SAT and ACT taken in high school?

The SAT and ACT can be taken by a student from the eighth grade to 12th grade. The ACT and SAT should preferably be taken before the spring semester of a high school student’s 12th grade school year. A student has to send out their best score from either their SAT or ACT to be viewed by the colleges of their choice to be considered as an accepted candidate by the end of the fall semester of their 12th grade school year.