Before we look at the nitty gritty, the most important thing to know is that the content of both exams is nearly identical, though the PSAT material is slightly easier. This brings us to another important difference: the top score on the PSAT is a 1520, 80 points lower than the 1600 maximum score on the SAT. Why the disparity? The exams are scored on a uniform scale (known as the “Vertical Score Scale”, explained in much more detail here), which ensures parity between PSAT and SAT scores, even though the PSAT’s content is slightly less difficult.
Now to the structural differences, outlined for you in a neat table.
The highlighted regions of the chart distinguish sections of the PSAT that differ from their corresponding SAT sections. As you’ll see, the PSAT Reading and Math sections all contain fewer questions than do their SAT counterparts, and are thus shorter than their corresponding SAT math sections (the exception being the No-Calculator Math). Also note that there is no Essay on the PSAT. (Note, too, that the Essay section is optional on the SAT.)
And that’s pretty much it! In summary, the PSAT and SAT are very similar, though the PSAT is slightly shorter and easier. For students who want to practice with the PSAT prior to its administration this October, see the official practice test on the College Board’s website here.
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