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Homepage Home > Testing > PSAT/NMSQT® > Helping Students Prepare > Test by Section Area > Mathematics


Understanding the PSAT/NMSQT test sections

The primary aim of the math section is to assess how well students understand math. Can they, for example, apply what they already know to new situations and use what they know to solve non-routine problems?

The math section of the PSAT/NMSQT requires a basic knowledge of:

  • Numbers and operation
  • Algebra and functions (though not content covered in third-year math classes—content that will appear on the SAT)
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probability

Multiple choice

For multiple-choice questions, students must solve each problem and decide which of the five choices given is the best. Basic geometric formulas are included in the test booklet for reference, since the PSAT/NMSQT emphasizes application, rather than memorization, of this material.

Learn more about the math multiple-choice questions in the student section of this website.

Student-produced responses (Grid-ins)

Student-produced response questions:

  • Do not include answer choices
  • May have more than one correct answer
  • Have no deduction for incorrect answers (because guessing is almost impossible)

When students enter their responses to these questions on the answer sheet:

  • It doesn't matter in which column students begin entering their answers; as long as the correct answer is gridded, students will receive credit.
  • Only answers entered in the ovals in each grid area will be correct. Students will not receive credit for anything written in the boxes above the ovals.

Learn more about the student-produced response questions in the student section of this website.

Math concepts

The following math concepts are covered in the PSAT/NMSQT.

Numbers and operation

  • Arithmetic word problems
  • Percent
  • Prime numbers
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Logical reasoning
  • Sets (union, intersection, and elements)
  • Properties of integers (even, odd, etc.)
  • Divisibility
  • Counting techniques
  • Sequences and series (including exponential growth)
  • Elementary number theory

Algebra and functions

  • Properties of exponents (including rational exponents)
  • Algebraic word problems
  • Substitution
  • Absolute value
  • Rational and radical equations
  • Equations of lines
  • Direct and inverse variation
  • Basic concepts of algebraic functions
  • Newly defined symbols based on commonly used operations
  • Solutions of linear equations and inequalities
  • Quadratic equations
  • Simplifying algebraic expressions

Geometry and measurement

  • Area and perimeter of a polygon
  • Area and circumference of a circle
  • Volume of a box, cube, and cylinder
  • Pythagorean Theorem and special properties of isosceles, equilateral, and right triangles
  • Properties of parallel and perpendicular lines
  • Coordinate geometry
  • Geometric visualization
  • Slope
  • Similarity

Data analysis, statistics, and probability

  • Data interpretation
  • Statistics (mean, median, and mode)
  • Probability

Customized Entry Pages


Although no question requires calculator use, students are strongly encouraged to bring a calculator to the PSAT/NMSQT. A scientific or graphing calculator is recommended.

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