What’s the Difference?

Clarity on PSAT/SAT confusion

The PSAT is basically SAT with less bite and one important purpose: it can get you scholarships. It does not get you acceptance into college but it is definitely an indication of your SAT scores, especially in math.

The types of questions are the same as SAT, so are the instructions. In fact, the timing on each section is also very similar. There are a few important differences in length, scoring, and content which are delineated below for your reference:

The Time Factor

Total Length2 hours 45 minutes3 hours (3 hours 50 minutes with essay)
Reading 60 minutes60 minutes
Writing & Language 35 minutes 35 minutes
Math70 minutes 80 minutes
EssayNone 50 minutes (optional)

The Scoring Factor

Evidence based Reading & Writing160-760200-800
Math 160-760200-800
Total Score 320-1520 400-1600

The Content Factor

Passage Word Count 500-750 words per passage or paired set500-750 words per passage or paired set
U.S and World Literature1 Passage, 9 questions1 Passage, 10 questions
History/Social Studies2 Passages,or 1 Passages and 1 pair2 Passages,or 1 Passage and 1 pair
Science 2 Passages,or 1 Passages and 1 pair2 Passages,or 1 Passage and 1 pair
Graphics 1-2 graphics in 1 History/Social Studies and 1 Science passage 2 Passages,or 1 Passages and 1 pair

Math Test Content

Total Questions4858
Math Section Total Time 70 minutes80 minutes
Calculator Permitted Section Time 45 minutes55 minutes
Calculator Not Permitted Section Total Time 25 minutes25 minutes
Multiple Choice(4 options) 40 questions45 questions
Student-Produced Response (grid in) 8 questions13 questions
Heart of Algebra 16 questions19 questions
Problem Solving and Data Analysis 16 questions19 questions
Passport to advanced 14 questions16 questions
Additional Topic in Math 2 questions6 questions

Similarities of PSAT with SAT

Over and above the similarities in question format, PSAT is definitely a wee bit easier than SAT since the difference is minimal. PSAT might give you the feeling of being a watered down version of SAT – which it is, no doubt! Questions that would be on the easy end of SAT math turn up usually on the PSAT. And the most difficult PSAT questions do not really reach the level of the hardest SAT math questions. The level of questions, especially Math topics, will be easier in PSAT. You might have easier "Passport to Advanced Math" questions, for example, only one basic Trigonometry question.