The PSAT is the Preliminary SAT, a practice test for the SAT that can also qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The PSAT is offered once a year—usually in October—and many high schools will offer the test to their entire sophomore class. To qualify for the scholarship program, however, you must take the test again during your junior year. This is extremely important! When I was in high school, no one bothered to tell me that. I lived in a state that was very much pro-ACT, although the PSAT was given during 10th grade. My counselor never told me I needed to take it as a junior to qualify for the National Merit program. Once I was done with the PSAT as a sophomore, I set my sites on the ACT and never looked back. Only when I started working for PowerScore did I understand why National Merit offers never came my way. While you can count on your high school counselor and your friendly test prep blog author for solicited advice, you have to be your own advocate in learning the ins and outs of scholarships, standardized tests, and college admissions.
Because the PSAT is given by local high schools, the date of the test is determined by the district administering it. You can visit The College Board’s PSAT High School Search to locate schools in your area that are providing the test and view their selected test date.
The ACT practice test is call the PLAN. It is also administered by local high schools, and usually offered to sophomores (but is also open to juniors). Unlike the PSAT, the PLAN does not have a scholarship program attached to it, so the only reason for taking it is to prepare for the ACT by pinpointing strengths and weaknesses on the preliminary test. For what it’s worth, studies show that students who take the PLAN score higher on the ACT than those who do not tackle the PLAN. Test dates are typically in October, but they do vary, so you need to contact a local high school to register and learn when the test is administered.
The PSAT is very similar to the SAT just as the PLAN is closely related to the ACT. For more information about the two preliminary tests, check out our fact sheets on the PSAT and the PLAN. Studying SAT and ACT test prep material WILL prepare you for the PSAT and PLAN, and more information about those study strategies are available in the fact sheets.