Though the SAT has never been a popular test in the state of Minnesota (about ten times as many students take the ACT than do the SAT), most students will take the PSAT in October of their junior year.  Breakaway offers comprehensive test prep programs for both the PSAT and the SAT.


In October of each year, nearly two million high school juniors take the PSAT.  Though primarily known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, the PSAT is also a valid indicator of how well a student will perform on the SAT.  As such, knowing more about this test and what its results tell you can give you some very good insights into whether the SAT is a good fit for your student.

During the 2015-2016 school year, both the PSAT and the SAT were redesigned and relaunched.  With the relaunch, both tests returned to scales similar to the traditional 1600-point SAT scale.  The revised PSAT, which debuted in October 2015, has a peculiar 1520-point scale that is comprised of two scores: an evidence-based reading and writing section score and a math section score, each offering a total of 760 points (or 1520 points together).  The redesigned SAT offers a 1600-point scale.  The 80-point difference between the two tests is due to the PSAT’s elimination of several of the most difficult problems found on the SAT.  By eliminating the most difficult problems, the PSAT scale was revised downward from 1600 to 1520.  However, the PSAT scores allow the student who takes the test to understand how he or she would perform on an SAT.  Thus, if a student scored a 600 on reading and a 620 on math on the PSAT, he or she could reasonably expect to score similarly (1220) on the SAT.

For top scorers, the PSAT is also the test that qualifies students for the National Merit Scholarship.  Every year, approximately 16,000 students nationwide become National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists based on their score on the PSAT.  Another 34,000 students are recognized as Commended Scholars.  Together with the National Merit Scholars, these groups comprise the top 50,000 scorers nationwide.

For the Class of 2017, the cutoff score for Commended Scholars was a 209; the cutoff score for National Merit Scholars was 219.  A student’s National Merit qualifying score is calculated by doubling the student’s reading and writing score and adding the student’s math score to that total.  That total is then divided by ten.  Here’s an example: suppose a student scores a 620 in reading and a 640 in math.  The student’s National Merit Score would be calculated by doubling the reading score (620 x 2 = 1240) and adding the math score (640) to get a score of 1860.  That score is then divided by ten to arrive at a 186.  Cutoff scores for a given class are announced in September of that class’s senior year.


Completely redesigned and relaunched in 2016, the new SAT returned to its historical scale of 1600 points and is once again comprised of a reading and a math score.  The evidence-based reading and writing section is a combined section that includes both a 65-minute, 52-question reading section plus a 35-minute, 44-question writing (grammar) test.  Math is now comprised of a 25-minute “no calculator permitted” section with 20 questions, and a 55-minute, 38-question math section in which calculators are permitted.

Since the SAT’s redesign, we have certainly noticed an increased number of similarities between the ACT and the SAT, including a nearly identical grammar section, an overlap in the range of math concepts tested, from basic algebra through geometry, algebra II and trigonometry, and similar tests of reading comprehension.  However, for its part, the SAT remains less time-constrained than the ACT, though the SAT makes up for its more “relaxed” pace by offering generally more challenging questions across all sections of the test.

Breakaway offers a comprehensive program of test prep for students who wish to prepare for the PSAT and/or the SAT.  Private PSAT/SAT instruction with Breakaway includes the following:

  • Comprehensive reviews of all commonly tested concepts in grammar, algebra I, geometry, algebra II, trigonometry and other advanced math topics
  • Critical test-taking and time management strategies for all sections of the test, including the reading, writing, math (with calculator) and math (without calculator) sections
  • A proprietary and proven study guide that provides thorough overviews of each section of the test, including key concepts, hundreds of sample problems and critical insights about test-taking and time-management strategies
  • Access to ten official PSAT and SAT tests
  • Access to Breakaway’s proctored practice tests held nearly every weekend of the year at our testing center at 3440 Beltline Blvd. in St. Louis Park
  • Convenient lesson times and locations; instructors are available seven days per week, day times and evenings
  • The cost for private instruction is $125/hour. There is a one-time $100 fee for materials and practice tests.

Ready to get started?  Click here to register for a practice test. Or, if you’d prefer to arrange a call to discuss your student and how Breakaway could help, please click here to complete an inquiry form, or call Ron Michalak, Breakaway’s founder, at 612-216-5133.