How to Prep for the PSAT

By IvyWise on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

AdobeStock_114530149Learn What to Expect During the PSAT Exam

Many high school juniors are gearing up for the PSAT this fall. Oftentimes, this is a student’s first experience with a standardized test for college and for many, it can provide valuable insight into their academic strengths and weaknesses. The PSAT is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which awards college scholarship money to top test takers.

In order to earn your personal best score, it’s important to prepare in advance and set yourself up for success. Keep reading to learn our top tips for preparing for the PSAT exam.

Make Sure to Sign Up in Advanced
In order to take the PSAT, students must register through their school. The PSAT is offered three times in October, and your school will offer the test on one of those three dates. Check with your school guidance department about when you are able to register and on what date you school is offering the test. Students who are homeschooled or located internationally may still be eligible to take the exam, so don’t be afraid to reach out in order to learn more.

Learn the Basics
The PSAT has two main sections – Reading & Writing and Math. The highest score a student can receive is a 760 per section and the minimum score is 160. Consequently, a perfect score on the exam would be a 1520 and the lowest score a test taker could possible receive would be a 320. The exam takes 2 hours and 45 minutes in total and includes a near equal distribution of reading, writing, and math questions, which the chart further breaks down below.

Reading4760 minutes
Writing4435 minutes
Math4875 minutes

Don’t Be Afraid to Guess
On the PSAT, an incorrect answer is the same leaving an answer blank — there is no additional penalty for guessing. This means that if you’re unsure of an answer, it’s always better to try and take a guess than to leave any answers blank!

Take a practice test
If possible, take a practice exam before sitting for the PSAT so you have a better idea of what you can expect. Students can find an official one by visiting the CollegeBoard’s website. Take note of the kinds of questions on the exam and if there are any specific topics that are particularly challenging for you. A practice exam can also help students develop a better sense of the timing and pace of the exam, so they know what to expect on test day. 

Create a Checklist
Set yourself up for success on exam day by preparing what you need to bring in advance. This should include at least two No. 2 pencils with erasers, a calculator that is approved by the CollegeBoard, and a photo ID or CollegeBoard Student ID Form. Avoid bringing any items that are banned on test day, including colored pens and pencils, smartwatches, and rulers. On the morning of the exam, give yourself enough time to double-check your bag, eat a balanced breakfast, and arrive at school with time to spare.

Whether you’re hoping to secure a scholarship through the National Merit Program or only just beginning to explore college test preparation, the PSAT is a great opportunity to evaluate your test taking skills and gauge how you will perform on future on exams. If you’re preparing for standardized tests and looking for one on one help, our team of expert tutors can ensure you feel confident when it comes time to take your exam.



Related Topics
PSAT, Test Prep