Although the PSAT™ is optional, it offers many benefits to students who take it. Each version of the PSAT is tailored to suit different grade levels and can serve as an indicator of your child’s future success on the SAT and in higher education. While these exams don’t impact your child’s academic transcript, they provide invaluable feedback to test takers, the school, and the district.

What is the PSAT™?

The PSAT exams are part of the College Board’s SAT suite. They allow your child to track their improvement throughout high school as they prepare to take the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT in their junior year. These scores can identify student strengths, indicate college-readiness, and inform AP course decisions.

There are three forms of the PSAT, and each is adjusted to suit your child’s current skills and grade level. While your child can take higher levels of the PSAT, the College Board generally recommends your child take the exam version for their grade level.

PSAT scores are not part of the college admissions process, reported to schools, or displayed on transcripts. However, the PSAT offers valuable insights for students, their teachers, and education leaders. PSAT scores can inform college choices, provide a foundation for SAT prep, and qualify students for scholarships.

PSAT™ 8/9

The content on the PSAT 8/9 is geared towards those in the eighth and ninth grades. This exam assesses their current skill level and the knowledge they’ve acquired so far. As such, there’s no need for your child to take a prep course before taking this exam. Instead, they should focus on doing well in their classes.

The results of this exam can highlight their current strengths and serve as a baseline for their performance.

PSAT™ 10

Although some schools may allow freshmen to take the PSAT 10, this version of the exam is geared towards high school sophomores. Your child can take this exam in the spring, and the content on this exam is identical to the PSAT/NMSQT. The PSAT 10 doesn’t qualify your child for the National Merit® Scholarship program, but it may qualify them for scholarships through the College Board partnerships.

Taking the PSAT 10 can prepare your child for both the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT the following year. This is a great way for your child to predict their performance on the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT.


Although sophomores can take the PSAT/NMSQT, only juniors taking this exam can qualify for the National Merit® Scholarship program. The National Merit Scholarship is a coveted award. Only the top 1% of test takers will become National Merit semifinalists, a standing that can boost students’ chances for admission to their dream colleges.

This exam is typically offered on October 12th. Schools may administer the PSAT/NMSQT on any school day in October or on one of two Saturday test dates: October 12 or October 25.

When Should Your Child Start Preparing for the PSAT?

When your child begins preparing for the PSAT depends on what they hope to accomplish. If they take it 8/9, they won’t need to complete a prep program. This variation of the PSAT is purely to provide a baseline for your child and give them a head start on SAT prep. Simply doing well in their classes and taking practice tests can prepare them for the test.

Since the PSAT 10 is generally offered in March or April, we recommend your child begin test prep no later than fall of their sophomore year. This gives them time to familiarize themselves with the test content and test-day conditions.

For those taking the PSAT/NMSQT, test prep should begin no later than the summer before junior year. Since their performance can qualify them for the National Merit Scholarship program, your child may put extra pressure on themselves to do well. Preparing the spring and summer before the exam can help them overcome their nerves through immersive test prep. Practicing in conditions similar to those on test day can improve your child’s confidence in their test-taking abilities.

Is the PSAT Required for College Admission?

PSAT scores cannot be used in place of standardized test scores on college applications. However, taking it can help your child plan their academic path by highlighting their strengths and offering course recommendations. This can push your child to take more challenging classes, which can build their academic resume, prepare them for the SAT, and improve their college readiness.

Is PSAT Prep the Same as SAT Prep?

Since the content covered on both the PSAT and SAT is incredibly similar, choosing to prepare for one exam is beneficial to both. Getting a head start on PSAT prep gives your students more opportunities to take the SAT and finalize their score. Moreover, both the digital PSAT/NMSQT and SAT are conducted through the same testing software, Bluebook.

This application offers a myriad of built-in functions to assist in the testing process, such as:

  • a calculator
  • reference sheets
  • annotation tools
  • strikethrough function and more

These functions are available for both the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT, and your child can work through full-length practice tests with this application.

Much like its traditional counterpart, the digital PSAT/NMSQT has a Reading and Writing module and a Math module. It takes a little over two hours to complete, and your child can revisit questions in their current module until the time runs out.

Give Your Child a Head Start on PSAT Prep with C2 Education

No matter which version of the PSAT your child takes, the earlier your child prepares for the PSAT, the more opportunities they’ll have to improve. Although PSAT scores don’t directly influence college admissions, earning honors through the National Merit Scholarship Program is an asset to any student’s college application. In addition, PSAT prep provides a strong foundation for SAT prep, helping to set students up for success on college admissions exams. More importantly, it gives them more time to prepare for and take the SAT.

At C2 Education, we understand every student has unique needs and learning styles. That’s why our subject matter experts customize our PSAT Prep curriculum to your child’s strengths and goals. Your child will practice under conditions similar to what they’ll encounter on test day to reduce their anxiety and improve their performance.

Our expert tutors review each score report with your child, allowing them to monitor progress in real time. This provides clear goals and helps your child stay motivated during their studies.

Ready to help your child reach their full potential on test day? Call us at (844) 812-2212 or visit a C2 center near you!