psat 10 vs psat nmsqt

Years ago, there was just one version of the PSAT: the Practice SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. However, there are now multiple versions of the PSAT, including the PSAT 10 vs. the PSAT NMSQT.

The two tests are similar in many ways. Both are designed to aid students in practicing for the SAT. They both give students an idea of what to expect when taking the “big test.” In addition, both types of PSAT exams contain questions similar to those on the SAT, and neither includes any essays.

Both tests use the same scoring scale, with possible scores between 320 and 1520. The scoring scale for the PSAT does differ from the one used for the SAT, though, which scores between 400 and 1600. Finally, both tests are similar because they are easier and shorter than the SAT.

The first obvious question students usually have is, “What’s the difference between the two PSAT tests?” The second question is, “Which one should I take?”

What’s the Difference Between the PSAT 10 and the PSAT NMSQT?

There are a few key differences between these two versions of the PSAT. The main one is that the PSAT 10 was written for sophomores, and the PSAT NMSQT was written for juniors.

Juniors use the PSAT NMSQT to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship competition. The PSAT 10 will never be used for National Merit reasons, and if a student takes the PSAT NMSQT at a time other than during their junior year, it will not qualify for National Merit use.

Since the two tests are designed for two different grade levels, you can expect the PSAT NMSQT to be slightly more difficult in both math and English. More challenging geometry and trigonometry problems and trickier grammar questions are designed for 11th graders on the PSAT NMSQT.

Which One Should You Take?

The answer to this question depends on your grade level. It’s recommended that students in the 11th grade take the PSAT NMSQT, 10th graders take the PSAT 10, and freshmen take the PSAT 8/9.

Taking the PSAT NMSQT is usually the best option if you’re a junior. Even if you don’t think you will do well on it, this test will help prepare you for when you take the SAT. It’s an excellent way to get started on your SAT studying journey. 

For students in the 11th grade who are English Language Learners, the PSAT 10 may be a good option to begin with since it’s slightly easier than the PSAT NMSQT. 

If you’re a sophomore, you could take either test, really, depending on your educational and test-taking goals. The College Board does allow 10th graders to take the PSAT NMSQT, but you should verify with your school counselor that your school permits it.


If you’re a high-achieving student and want to apply to elite colleges, or you’re aiming for a National Merit Scholarship, take the PSAT 10 when you’re a sophomore and the PSAT NMSQT when you’re a junior. Contact Jantzi for professional test prep services, tutoring, and more to prepare for either test and score your best.