If you're coming up on your sophomore or junior year, you're probably wondering when you'll be taking the PSAT and how you should prepare. In this article, I'll tell you when the PSAT is offered this year, how to get ready, and how this relates to your future plans for the SAT.
2021 PSAT Test Dates
UPDATE: The PSAT is typically given in October, but as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a new January 2021 date was added for schools unable to administer PSAT tests in October 2020. This is likely a one-time event and won't be continued in future years, but that hasn't been officially confirmed. The new test date will be January, 26, 2021. As it is an alternate test date itself, there will be no makeup exam dates for it.
The PSAT NMSQT will also be offered in October 2021 to 10th and 11th graders. There are three possible PSAT test dates in fall 2021:
- Primary: Wednesday, October 13
- Weekend: Saturday, October 16
- Alternate: Thursday, October 27
The PSAT is administered by each high school on an individual basis (rather than at designated test centers like the SAT). This means that high schools get to decide which date to offer to students.
The College Board recommends that schools choose October 13th for administering the PSAT. October 16th is the Saturday option and October 27th is a secondary date that schools might use in circumstances where they can't hold the test on the 13th. You will have to take the test on the date offered at your school.
How Should You Prepare for the PSAT?
The PSAT was redesigned in 2015 to accord with the 2016 redesign of the SAT. On our blog, we've gathered some practice materials to help you prepare for the PSAT. You can also read this article to get more information about practice tests you can use and this article for an overview of the changes to the PSAT.
Since the PSAT test date is at the beginning of the school year in October, you will have the summer to prepare for the test. Preparing for the PSAT shouldn't be as intense as for the real SAT, but if you're looking to potentially get high enough scores to be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship, you should think about doing some studying.
Take a practice test and see how you fare—then you can focus on improving in any weak subject areas.
For the PSAT, one of the best things you can do to prepare is just pay attention in your classes and do some challenging outside reading. Developing your logical reasoning and reading comprehension skills as well as basic math knowledge will be key to doing well on this test and on the real SAT.
Learning these things over time organically will make them stick in your brain much better. You'll find that skills that were once difficult become second-nature with accumulated practice. This is much better than cramming right before the test, which might help a little but won't give you the same level of confidence.
Don't let your brain get too overwhelmed.
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How Much Time Do You Have Before the Real SAT?
If you take the PSAT in 2021, you will be a sophomore or a junior. Depending on which grade you're in now, you might have more or less time between the PSAT and the SAT.
It depends on how early you want to get started with taking the SAT. You could decide to take it in the spring of 2021 to become familiar with the test format and have plenty of time to study based on your weak areas before retaking. You could also wait until your junior fall to take it for the first time, if you are hoping to avoid a retake and want to get some studying in over the summer.
You may have up to a year between the PSAT and the first time you take the SAT, depending on your preferences about when you want to get started and how many times you plan on taking the test. Generally we recommend taking the SAT for the first time your junior fall. If you decide to wait until then, you'll still have plenty of time to improve your scores!
If you're taking the PSAT as a junior, you have less time before the SAT. It can be advantageous to take the PSAT as a junior, however, because you will have learned more material in school by then and will have a more solid grasp on all the concepts that are tested.
A couple of months between the PSAT and the SAT should be enough time to study and achieve a modest bump in your scores. If you don't do as well as you hoped, you can take the SAT again in fall of your senior year.
October exams: A Very Special Spooky Scary SAT Test Date
Predicted Future PSAT Dates in 2022, 2023, and 2024
If you're a sophomore or younger, you might be wondering when the PSAT is offered in future years. Based on past dates, here are some predictions about when the PSAT will be held in 2022, 2023, and 2024:
|Year||Regular Date||Alternative Date||Saturday Date|
|2022||Wednesday, October 12||Wednesday, October 26||Saturday, October 15|
|2023||Wednesday, October 11||Wednesday, October 25||Saturday, October 14|
|2024||Wednesday, October 9||Wednesday, October 23||Saturday, October 12|
If you're aiming for a top score, learn what it takes to win a National Merit Scholarship.
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Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.