By Sean Alexander
psat 8/9" />

Navigating the world of standardized testing can seem daunting, especially for younger students. The PSAT 8/9, administered to eighth and ninth graders, is a great way to prepare for the more important SAT or ACT. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the test, including the content, preparation strategies, and how to interpret scores. It also offers insights into the digital format and free practice tests available. Join us as we unravel the intricacies of the PSAT 8/9 and set you on a path to success.


Step-by-Step Guide

    Understanding the PSAT 8/9 Test

    The PSAT 8/9 is the preliminary version of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), aimed at eighth and ninth graders. It's the first in the College Board's SAT Suite of Assessments, designed to provide early feedback on students' college and career readiness.  It may also be a requirement for your preferred high school admissions.  The test includes three sections: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Most questions are multiple-choice, but some Math questions require a written response. The test duration is 2 hours and 25 minutes. It's essential to note that PSAT 8/9 scores are not sent to colleges and are primarily for the student's benefit.

    PSAT 8/9: The First Step to SAT Test

    As the initial step towards the SAT Test, the PSAT 8/9 is designed to help students begin their high school journey on a strong footing. It provides an early insight into the content, structure, and timing of the SAT, allowing students to become familiar with the type of questions they might encounter in future high school classes and the SAT.

    The PSAT 8/9 test comprises three main sections:

    • Reading
    • Writing and Language
    • Math

    These sections are designed to assess student's college and career readiness. While the test does not directly contribute to college admissions, it plays a vital role in preparing students for future standardized tests and providing a benchmark for their academic progress.

    Moreover, taking the PSAT 8/9 allows students to gain access to a score reporting portal, which provides detailed feedback and a few sample questions for further practice. Lastly, it provides a full-length practice test that mirrors the SAT, giving students a realistic preview of what to expect.  Students who take the PSAT 8/9 tend to do better on the SAT, which is required by most colleges.

    How to Prepare for PSAT 8/9 with Practice Tests

    psat 8/9Preparing for the PSAT 8/9 with practice tests can significantly enhance your performance. Start by understanding the structure of the test, which includes the Reading Test, the Writing and Language Test, and the Math Test. Familiarize yourself with the types of questions and the time allocated for each section.

    Free Practice Tests: Several platforms, including the College Board's SAT Suite and the Bluebook app, provide free full-length practice tests. You can download and print these tests for offline practice.

    Paid Resources: For more thorough preparation, consider hiring a professional PSAT tutor who can show your student the tricks and strategies to excel at standardized testing.

    Online Quizzes: Websites like Kaplan Test Prep offer free practice quizzes to test your skills in specific areas.

    Using Assistive Technology: If you're using assistive technology, you can download practice tests designed for it.

    Remember, consistent practice is the key to mastering the PSAT 8/9. Take multiple practice tests, score your results, and review your mistakes to identify areas for improvement.

    Interpreting Your PSAT 8/9 Scores

    Interpreting your PSAT 8/9 scores can provide valuable insights into your academic strengths and areas for improvement. The PSAT 8/9 score report offers three main categories of scores: total score, section scores (Reading and Writing, and Math), and test scores. The total score ranges from 240-1440, while section scores range from 120-720 for each section. Test scores, which are detailed scores for Reading, Writing, and Math, range from 8 to 38. Your percentile rank, also provided in the report, represents your rank compared to other test-takers. For example, if your percentile rank is 75, this means you scored higher than 75% of test-takers. Understanding these score categories can help you plan your study strategies and set academic goals.

    PSAT 8/9 and NMSQT: What's the Connection?

    The PSAT 8/9 and the NMSQT are both included in the College Board's SAT Suite of Assessments. However, they serve different purposes and are targeted at students in different grades. The PSAT 8/9 is designed as a starting point for college and career readiness as students transition to high school. On the other hand, the NMSQT, administered to students in the 10th and 11th grades, further measures the same knowledge and skills but at a higher level. Notably, the NMSQT can also qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Despite these differences, both tests share a similar structure, including sections on Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.

    Importance of PSAT 8/9 for College Boards

    The PSAT 8/9 plays a critical role for College Boards due to its ability to establish a baseline for student performance. It helps teachers and administrators track academic progress over the high school years, thus enabling strategic interventions to support student success. Moreover, this test provides valuable insights into students' readiness for college and careers.

    • It serves as a helpful tool for identifying areas of strength and weakness in students' knowledge and skills.
    • It allows students to practice for the PSAT 10, the PSAT/NMSQT, and the SAT.
    • It provides students with a realistic preview of future SAT Suite assessments.

    Bottom line, the PSAT 8/9 is not only a stepping stone for students but also a useful instrument for College Boards to ensure students' academic growth and readiness.  It can also show top high schools that you are a competitive candidate.

    Checking and Receiving Your PSAT 8/9 Results

    After taking the PSAT 8/9, it's time to access your results. Your school will provide you with a score report, so make sure to ask for it. Alternatively, you can create a College Board account to view your scores online. Once you log in, you can find the "PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9 Scores" section to see your results.

    Your score report will detail three main scores: your total score, your Reading and Writing section score, and your Math section score. Total scores range from 240-1440, while section scores range from 120-720.

    Take time to analyze your scores, as they provide valuable insights into your academic strengths and areas that need improvement. This will help you prepare for future SAT tests effectively.

    Digital vs Paper: PSAT 8/9 Test Formats

    Starting from Fall 2023, the PSAT 8/9 test will be administered in a digital format. This shift aims to provide a more streamlined testing experience for students. The digital PSAT 8/9 shares the same structure as its paper version, including Reading, Writing, and Math sections. However, the transition to digital brings some notable differences.

    • Time Management: The digital format includes a built-in timer, giving students a clear view of the remaining time for each section. This feature can help students manage their time more effectively.
    • Adaptive Test: The digital PSAT 8/9 is adaptive, meaning the difficulty of questions may adjust based on students' responses to previous questions. This feature aims to offer a more personalized testing experience.
    • Preparation for Future Tests: The shift to digital prepares students for the digital SAT, which will be fully implemented in Spring 2024. Testing in a similar format can help students become familiar with the digital testing environment.

    Despite these changes, paper practice tests remain available for download on the College Board's website. This allows students to practice in a format they're comfortable with while transitioning to the digital format.

    What If Your School Doesn't Offer the PSAT 8/9?

    If your school doesn't offer the PSAT 8/9, there's no need to worry. You can still participate in the test through other means. Consider reaching out to nearby schools or district offices as soon as possible as they may offer the PSAT 8/9. Students who plan to take the test at a school they do not normally attend are referred to as "away students". Be aware that you won't automatically be included in the school's registration file, thus it's crucial to proactively communicate your intention to take the test.



    • Sean Alexander

      COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

      View all posts
    Download our Ultimate Guide
    to Conquering Test Anxiety
    Years of research have led to this proven guide to solving students’ most common problem

    Test Anxiety Lead Magnet

    You Might Also Like