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PSAT Information for Canadians

 

About PSAT

The PSAT or Preliminary SAT, is a multiple-choice standardized test administered by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Approximately 1.3 million students in grades 10 and 11 take the test each year in October. In the US, the scores from the PSAT are used to determine eligibility for scholarships. Although Canadians are not eligible for the National Merit scholarships, students take the exam as practice for the SAT and can choose to be automatically added to mailing lists for US schools.

The PSAT is a shortened version of the actual SAT. The test is composed of three sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing and is two hours and ten minutes in length. In comparison, the SAT exam is about 4 hours long.

Each of the three sections is scored on a scale from 20 to 80, with 50 being the median of all test takers. The maximum score one can achieve is 240. The scoring system for the PSAT closely parallels the SAT, which is graded on a scale of 200 to 800, and has a maximum possible combined score of 2400.

PSAT Resources: PSAT (Wikipedia) | PSAT Percentiles (College Board) | PSAT Discussions (CC)

 

The most common reasons students take the PSAT:

    1. To practice for the SAT
    2. To receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses in the areas of critical reading, writing and math
    3. To compare performance among peer groups
    4. To be added to mailing lists for US colleges and receive school specific information


PSAT Exam Outline

  • Critical Reading (2 sections, 25 minutes each)
    • 48 questions, all multiple choice
      • 13 sentence completions
      • 35 critical reading questions

 

  • Mathematics (2 sections, 25 minutes each)
    • 38 questions:
      • 28 multiple choice
      • 10 grid-in answers
    • A calculator is allowed on the math sections

 

  • Writing (1 section, 30 minutes)
    • 39 questions, all multiple choice
      • 14 identifying sentence errors
      • 20 improving sentences
      • 5 improving paragraphs


How to register?


The PSAT is administered around mid-October on either a Wednesday or Saturday, depending on the school. Unlike the SATs where registration is handled by the College Board, you must register for the PSAT through your high school.

High schools in Toronto, Ontario that administer the PSAT are:

• Appleby College
• Bishop Strachan School
• Branksome Hall
• Cardinal Carter Academy for Arts
• City Academy
• Father John Redmond Catholic High School
• Greenwood College School
• Havergal College
• Holy Trinity School
• Jean Vanier Catholic School
• Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School
• Pickering College
• Ridley College
• Royal St. George’s College
• St. Andrew’s College
• St. Clement’s School
• St. Michael’s College School
• St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School
• Toronto French School
• Upper Canada College
• York School


If you do not attend one of the schools listed above, your options for writing the PSAT are limited. Most schools will only administer the test to students who attend the school. However, there are a few schools that do offer the exam to external students on a space available basis:

• Havergal College (416-483-3843)
• St. Michael’s College School (416-653-3180)

*When calling, please ask for the guidance counselor for more information on how to register.


What to bring on test day?


You should bring the following items to the exam:


• A couple of pencils and an eraser
• An approved calculator
• Driver’s license or another approved picture ID
• A bottle of water

 

Want to learn more about US College Admissions?

Attend one of our free informational seminars on applying to US Colleges. For information, click here.

 

How can I prepare for the PSAT?

The PSAT is a shorter version of the SAT, but essentially has the same types of questions and tests the same concepts as the SAT test. We recommend preparing for the PSAT test by preparing for the SAT. Ivy Global offers junior SAT Classes (Grades 8-10) during the summer and SAT private tutors. We also run a PSAT workshop in the fall.



What are the similarities and differences between the SAT and PSAT?


The SAT and PSAT cover very similar content. They both use the same types of questions to test:

  • Mathematical Ability (multiple choice and grid-in questions)
  • Critical Reading (sentence completion and reading comprehension questions)
  • Writing Skills (error identification questions, and questions that ask you to improve sentences and paragraphs)

However, there are a number of differences between the two tests. For example:

  • The questions on the PSAT are less difficult than those on the SAT, as the PSAT is usually taken in Grade 10 or 11. The PSAT is considered excellent practice for the SAT as it familiarizes students with the kinds of questions and instructions they’ll see on the SAT.
  • The PSAT is much shorter than the SAT. While the SAT has 10 sections and includes a 30-minute essay, the PSAT has only 5 sections and no essays (see table below for details).
Test Sections & Questions Types SAT PSAT
Math 3 sections (two 25-minute, one 20 minute) 2 sections (25 minutes each)
Critical Reading 3 sections (two 25-minute, one 20 minute) 2 sections (25 minutes each)
Writing Skills 2 sections (one 25-minute, one 10-minute) 1 section (30 minutes)
Essay 1 30-minute essay No Essay
Total Testing Time 3 hours, 45 minutes 2 hours, 10 minutes

 

Unlike the SAT, PSAT scores are not reported to colleges or used for college admission. Instead, scores are reported only to the student; they give feedback on how you are doing compared to your peers and tell you what areas you need to improve on before you take the SAT.

The PSAT and SAT are scored differently. The PSAT is scored on a scale from 20 to 80, instead of the 200 to 800 scale used for the SAT. Average scores for someone writing the PSAT in Grade 11 are 48 in Critical Reading, 49 in Mathematics, and 46 in Writing Skills.

 

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