Every autumn, sophomores and juniors have the opportunity to take the PSAT. But how exactly does the PSAT registration process work? Does everyone have the same PSAT sign up date? What does it cost to take the PSAT?
Here, we'll teach you everything you need to know about PSAT registration. We'll start off with a brief overview of how registration works and then go over the three key steps you'll need to take in order to register for the PSAT. We'll then explain how to register for the test if you’re homeschooled or living outside the U.S. before finishing off with our top tips for ensuring a smooth PSAT registration process.
PSAT Registration: Overview
Unlike the SAT, for which you register online through the College Board, you register for the PSAT through your own high school. Exactly how the PSAT sign up process works will depend on your school. Basically, though, how it works is like this: schools inform their students when the PSAT registration deadline is and give instructions on how to register and pay for the test.
The PSAT is offered three times a year every fall on a primary date, Saturday date, and alternate date. Your school will select the date on which it will administer the PSAT. Most schools choose the primary date, but some schools may instead administer the PSAT on one of the two alternate dates should the primary date not work well with the school’s schedule.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Saturday, October 13, 2018
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Many schools will require you to register for the PSAT sometime in September. Unfortunately, not all schools administer the PSAT. If your school isn't going to offer the PSAT, you may take the test at another nearby school that is offering it.
Next, we'll walk through the PSAT registration process and look at how to search for schools offering the PSAT in case your school doesn't plan to administer it.
How to Register for the PSAT: 3-Step Guide
Here, we go over the three steps you’ll need to take in order to register for the PSAT at your (or a nearby) school.
Step 1: Determine Whether Your School Will Offer the PSAT
First, you must determine whether your school will actually administer the PSAT. The easiest way to check this is to use the College Board's school search tool, which looks like this:
With this tool, all you have to do is type in the name of your school and its city, state (if applicable), zip code, and country. Once you click "Search," you'll get an entry with the name and address of your school as well as its assessment and test date. On the drop-down menu, click "PSAT/NMSQT Fall 2018." (If fall 2018 dates aren't available yet, click "Fall 2017" to see whether your school offered the PSAT last year.)
Here’s an example of a school in Houston that offered the 2016 PSAT on that year's primary date:
If you know for sure your school will not be offering the PSAT or if you’re a homeschooled student, you can instead search for your city, state, and zip code to see which schools around you will be offering the PSAT. This type of search can help you narrow down your options, ultimately allowing you to select the school that’s most convenient for you.
Alternatively, if you don't want to use this search tool, you can simply ask your counselor whether your school will be offering the PSAT or whether they know of any nearby schools that will be offering it.
Step 2: Find Out Your PSAT Registration Deadline and Test Date
As I mentioned previously, most schools opt for the primary test date, which is always a weekday in early or mid-October. However, some schools may instead opt for the Saturday date or the alternate test date to accommodate special schedules or religious observances. To find out when your school will be administering the PSAT, consult your counselor or look at the 2018 PSAT administration date for your school using the school search tool.
Here’s an example of two schools in the same city with different administration dates. One school administered the 2016 PSAT on the primary date, whereas the other administered it on the Saturday date:
Your school should inform you prior to the PSAT test dates about when the exam will take place. If you haven’t heard anything by early or mid-September, consult your counselor.
Step 3: Sign Up and Pay for the PSAT
Your next step is to register for the PSAT. Here's the kicker, though: PSAT sign up methods vary by school. So while some schools may require you to register and pay for the test in person, others may require you to register online through a website. (You will never register for the PSAT through the College Board, however.) For example, this high school requires students to register for the PSAT online and then pay for it later in person, whereas this school requires students to register and pay for the PSAT all in person.
Whatever the case, your school should offer clear instructions on how to complete your PSAT sign up. Schools typically hand out or email PSAT registration information to students in the early fall. If you are planning to take the PSAT at a different school, you'll need to call that school or contact one of its counselors to inquire about the PSAT registration process and see whether the process differs for students who do not attend that school.
When registering for the PSAT, you’ll typically be asked to provide basic identifying information, including your full name, home address, phone number, email address, grade level, and student ID number (if applicable).
The PSAT currently costs $16 per student, but some schools may cover all or part of the fee for students. Likewise, some schools may charge more than $16 in order to compensate for the hiring of proctors and test administrators. Either way, your school should tell you how much you'll need to pay and how to submit your payment. Most schools accept cash or checks, but what’s considered an acceptable form of payment will vary depending on the school. Checks will most likely be addressed to your school (never to the College Board).
Furthermore, if you're a low-income junior, you may qualify for a PSAT fee waiver. To confirm your eligibility, talk with your counselor. Only schools — not students! — may contact the College Board to request fee waivers. So if you have any questions or concerns about PSAT registration or paying for the PSAT, it's best to consult your counselor directly.
And there you have it: everything you need to know and do in order to register for the PSAT!
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How to Register for the PSAT If You’re Homeschooled
If you’re homeschooled, you can still register for the PSAT — you just need to find a school that administers it. Here are the steps to follow:
1. Get in touch with a local high school. Use the College Board’s high school search tool to look for schools offering the PSAT or to confirm that the high school you want to test at will be administering the PSAT. The College Board recommends reaching out to schools four months before the test to ensure you'll have ample time to work out registration logistics and solidify your test-taking plans.
2. Request a copy of the Official Student Guide from your school. This free guide will tell you everything you need to know about the PSAT and even comes with a full-length practice test. You can also download guide from the College Board website.
3. Determine whether you qualify for a fee waiver. Generally, those who qualify for fee waivers are low-income 11th graders. I suggest reviewing the eligibility requirements and then consulting a counselor at your selected school to determine whether you're eligible. Note that homeschooled students may not request fee waivers directly from the College Board.
How to Register for the PSAT If You’re Living Outside the U.S.
You don’t need to be a current resident of the U.S. or even a U.S. citizen to take the PSAT. Unfortunately, non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents are ineligible for National Merit scholarships, so there's not much of an incentive for international students to take the exam outside the U.S.
On the other hand, if you're a U.S. citizen (in the 11th grade or equivalent) currently living abroad, you are eligible for National Merit consideration. Here's how you can register for the PSAT abroad:
1. Get in touch with a local school that offers the PSAT. If you’re not sure which schools are offering the PSAT, use the College Board’s school search tool to look for schools. Make sure you start early — reach out to schools in your area at least four months before the primary PSAT test date.
2. Contact an English-speaking educator. This educator should guide you through the PSAT registration process and help you pay for the exam at your selected school.
3. Request a copy of the Official Student Guide from your school. Your school should give you a copy of this guide once you’ve registered for the PSAT. This free guide contains a full-length practice test in addition to tons of information on what the PSAT is and what kinds of skills it tests. For additional practice, download the PSAT guide.
How to Request PSAT Accommodations for a Disability
Students with documented disabilities may request special accommodations for the PSAT. Examples of such accommodations include braille booklets, large-type test booklets, additional time, and extended breaks.
To request an accommodation, ask your school counselor to submit an official request to the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities on your behalf. This process usually takes about seven weeks, so be sure to start early.
If you are given any accommodations for your disability without prior approval from the College Board, your PSAT scores will be canceled. So don’t dawdle — talk to your counselor as early as possible to secure the accommodations you'll need for test day!
5 Tips for Ensuring a Smooth PSAT Registration Process
Before you register for the PSAT, follow our five tips below to ensure a smooth and error-free registration process.
#1: Start the Process Early
Unless your counselor has confirmed your school's PSAT intentions, you can't just assume your school will be offering the PSAT. This is why I suggest starting the PSAT process early, ideally at the end of your sophomore year. During this time, ask your counselor whether your school intends to administer the PSAT and when. If you know your school won’t be offering the PSAT (or if you’re homeschooled), start looking for schools in your area that will be offering it and get in touch with them as soon as possible.
Remember, it's imperative you give yourself plenty of time to contact schools, especially if you'll be asking about fee waivers or requesting special accommodations for a disability.
#2: Keep Your October Schedule Open
This year, all PSAT dates are scheduled for October, so you'll want to keep your October schedule fairly empty in order to accommodate the PSAT — particularly if your school hasn't yet announced the exact date on which it will administer the test. To avoid conflict, don't schedule dentist or orthodontist appointments on Wednesday mornings and don't plan any weekend getaways in case your school chooses the Saturday test date.
#3: Ask About Fee Waivers
Many students fail to realize they qualify for PSAT fee waivers, which is why we suggest talking to your counselor early on in the PSAT registration process about discounts for low-income 11th graders. Note that fee waivers apply to all sorts of students, including homeschooled students, U.S. citizens testing outside the U.S., and non-U.S. citizens testing in the U.S.
There is a caveat, though: fee waivers only cover the actual cost of the exam ($16) and not any additional fees required by your school. So even with a fee waiver, you may still have to pay a nominal fee in order to take the PSAT. As always, check with your school for details.
#4: Decide Whether You’ll Take the PSAT as a Sophomore
Most students take the PSAT as juniors, but some take the PSAT as sophomores to get a feel for the overall format of the test and what you’ll be expected to know. The downside? Sophomores are ineligible for National Merit scholarships, which target high-scoring juniors only, so there's no monetary benefit to taking the PSAT as a sophomore.
Despite this con, taking the PSAT early can help to familiarize you with the structure and content of the exam, ultimately increasing your chance of qualifying for National Merit as a junior. So if you truly want to give yourself your best shot at qualifying for National Merit in the future, go ahead and register for the PSAT as a sophomore!
#5: Consult Your Counselor for Questions
Last but not least, always consult your school counselor if you have any questions about the PSAT, such as when the test is, how to submit your payment, and how to request fee waivers and special accommodations. Ultimately, when it comes to your school, your counselor will be the most reliable PSAT resource available!
Recap: How PSAT Registration Works
All students register for the PSAT through their high schools or through other local schools should their own schools not administer the exam. Each school conducts its own PSAT registration process and will explain to students when the PSAT is as well as how students are to sign up and pay for it. Fee waivers are usually available to low-income 11th graders only.
If you’re homeschooled or not currently residing in the U.S., you can still take the PSAT. To register, contact a local high school that’s administering the PSAT and inquire about taking the test there. If you need special accommodations for a disability, you may request these ahead of time through your counselor.
Finally, don't forget these five essential tips guaranteed to help your PSAT registration proceed as smoothly as possible:
- Start early and confirm that your school actually offers the PSAT.
- Keep your fall schedule — especially October — relatively empty to account for all possible PSAT test dates.
- Ask your counselor about fee waivers and see whether you’re eligible for one.
- Decide whether you’d be interested in taking the PSAT as a sophomore.
- Direct any PSAT-related questions to your counselor.
Need a rundown of the PSAT before you register for it? Check out our expert guide to learn what the PSAT is, how it's scored, and what kinds of skills you'll need to master to get a great score on test day.
Want to learn about PSAT scoring (coming soon)? Our in-depth guide to the PSAT score range (coming soon) explains everything you need to know about PSAT score distribution, percentiles, and cutoff scores for National Merit consideration.
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Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.