Ten Things to Know about the PSAT/NMSQT

  • You don’t really need to know what all of those letters stand for.

  • It’s a test you take in your junior year/11th grade, but 10th graders may be able to take it as a practice round. Check with your school.

  • Taking this standardized test is the only way to be eligible for 8,600 college scholarships offered through the National Merit Scholarship Program and other special scholarships. (Special exceptions for illness or emergencies.)

  • It’s offered one time a year, in October: this year, it’s October 10 for most schools but the alternate date is October 13. Confirm the date with your school.

  • It’s only offered through your high school and you will need to register before the test date. Check with your counselor (soon!) on how to register.

  • Registering includes questions about your academic and college interests. You will be asked whether you want this information to be shared with the “Student Search Service.” This is how colleges and scholarships may find you—and contact you.

  • It’s a standardized test, and that means that not every student’s strengths are going to come shining through. Do not despair if this is you—there are many other ways to do that.

  • Taking the test doesn’t affect your school grades and is good practice for the SAT, a standardized test that many colleges require for admission.

  • The competition is stiff for becoming a finalist but it’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to call yourself a National Merit Scholar.

  • If you want to dig into the nitty gritty details, you can find them on the National Merit website at www.nationalmerit.org.