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 with a brief overview of how registration works and then go over the three key steps you need to take in order to register for the PSAT. We'll also touch on how to register if you're homeschooled or living outside the US before finishing 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 will register for the PSAT through your own high school.
Exactly how the PSAT sign up process works will depend on your school. Basically, though, here's how it works: schools inform their students when the PSAT registration deadline is, and then give instructions on how to register and pay for the test.
The PSAT is offered three times a year in the autumn 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 might 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 14, 2020
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Many schools will require you to register for the PSAT around September.
Unfortunately, not all schools administer the PSAT. If your high 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 high 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 required 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 high 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 2020." (If fall 2020 dates aren't available yet, click "Fall 2019" 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 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 ask your counselor whether your school will be offering the PSAT or whether they know of any nearby schools that plan to offer it.
Step 2: Find Out Your PSAT Registration Deadline and Test Date
Most high schools opt for the primary test date, which is always a weekday in early or mid-October. However, some schools might choose the Saturday PSAT date or the alternate test date instead 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 2020 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 test date, whereas the other administered the test on the Saturday date:
Your school should inform you prior to the PSAT test dates when the exam will take place. If you haven't heard anything by early or mid-September, talk to your counselor.
Step 3: Sign Up and Pay for the PSAT
Your next step is to register for the PSAT. Simple, right?
Here's the kicker, though: PSAT sign-up methods vary by school. So while some schools might require you to register and pay for the test in person, others might require you to go online and register through a website. (You'll never register for the PSAT through the College Board.)
For example, in 2016, this high school required students to register for the PSAT online and pay for it later in person, while 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're 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 provide basic identifying information, including your full name, home address, phone number, email address, grade level, and student ID number (if applicable).
The PSAT costs $17 per student, but some schools might cover all or part of this fee. Likewise, some schools might charge more than $17 in order to compensate for the use of proctors and test administrators.
Either way, your school should tell you how much you'll need to pay for the PSAT and how to submit your payment. Most schools accept cash or checks, but what is 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).
Finally, if you're a low-income junior, you might 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. 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:
Step 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.
Step 2: Request a Copy of the Official Student Guide From the 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 the PSAT guide from the College Board website.
Step 3: Determine Whether You Qualify for a Fee Waiver
Generally, those who qualify for PSAT 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 US
You don't need to be a current resident of the US or even a US citizen to take the PSAT.
Unfortunately, non-US citizens and non-permanent residents are not eligible for National Merit scholarships, so there's not much incentive for international students to take the exam outside the US.
On the other hand, if you're a US citizen (in the 11th grade or equivalent) who is currently living abroad, you are eligible for National Merit consideration.
Here's how you can register for the PSAT abroad:
Step 1: Contact 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 this process early—you should ideally reach out to schools in your area at least four months before the primary PSAT test date.
Step 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.
Step 3: Request a Copy of the Official Student Guide From the School
Your school should give you a copy of this guide once you've registered for the PSAT. This free test guide contains a full-length practice PSAT in addition to tons of information on what the PSAT is and what kinds of skills it tests. Alternatively, you can download it from the College Board website.
How to Request PSAT Accommodations for a Disability
Students who have documented disabilities may request special accommodations for the PSAT. Examples of 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. The process usually takes about seven weeks, so be sure to start early.
If you're given any accommodations for your disability without having received 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 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 will be administering the PSAT and when. If you know that your school won't be offering the PSAT (or if you are 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 necessary to 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
Usually, 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 a PSAT fee waiver, which is why we suggest talking to your counselor early in the PSAT registration process about discounts for low-income 11th graders.
Note that PSAT fee waivers apply to all sorts of students, including homeschooled students, US citizens testing outside the US, and non-US citizens testing in the US.
There is a caveat, though: fee waivers only cover the actual cost of the exam ($17) and not any additional fees that might be required by the school. So even with a fee waiver, you might 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 choose to take the PSAT as sophomores to get a feel for the format of the test and what you'll be expected to know. The downside? Sophomores are not eligible for National Merit scholarships, which target high-scoring juniors only, so there is no monetary benefit to taking the PSAT as a sophomore.
Despite this con, taking the PSAT early can help 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 a local school should their own school not administer the exam.
Each school conducts its own PSAT registration process and will explain to students when the test is and how students can sign up and pay for it. Fee waivers are usually available to low-income 11th graders.
If you are homeschooled or do not currently reside in the US, you can still take the PSAT. To register, contact a local high school that's administering the PSAT and ask whether you can take it there. If you need special accommodations for a disability, you can 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 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 in-depth PSAT guide to learn what the test is, how it's scored, and what kinds of skills you'll need to master to achieve a great PSAT score on test day.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.