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Effective Preparation Tips for PSAT

Aug 20, 2021

PSAT may not be the regular competitive examination that can decide the career path such as SAT, but preparing for PSAT can be greatly helpful to get a national merit scholarship and also score higher in SAT examination. Usually, it is the students in the junior year who appear for PSAT and effective preparation for it will strengthen the SAT preparation as well. The main intent of the PSAT is to prepare the student for the SAT and both the tests share a lot of similarities. Even if the student plans to take the ACT instead of the SAT, preparing for PSAT gives a good insight into the exam pattern and boosts confidence levels.
Interestingly, the PSAT score can be an effective predictor of the SAT score- despite the scoring differences. Preparing well for PSAT will also give a deeper understanding of$2,600 individual strengths and weaknesses and where the student needs to focus more to improve.

Why You Should Prep for the PSAT

If you are planning for a National Merit scholarship that can level up the career graph, PSAT should be taken. An annual scholarship of $2,500 is awarded to top scorers and it is a great aid for better education. The students who are seriously aiming for the scholarship should take PSAT preparation quite seriously and follow clear-cut strategies for excelling in it,


A 5- Step Plan for Acing PSAT:

Step 1: Know the Format Through and Through: Understand the examination’s format thoroughly by accessing official online resources. With this step, the student can get an idea of how to carve out a strategy for better preparation. Also, make note of the prime differences between PSAT and SAT:
PSAT has comparatively lesser questions compared to the SAT and doesn’t have an essay component. Based on the majority of the feedback, PSAT is relatively easier compared to SAT.

PSAT Format:

ReadingWriting and LanguageMath No-CalculatorMath Calculator
Time60 mins35 mins25 mins45 mins
# of Questions47441731
Question TypesMultiple choiceMultiple choiceMultiple choice, grid-insMultiple choice, grid-ins
Topics/Skills Tested
  • Vocabulary
  • Ability to find evidence for answers in passages
  • Data interpretation
  • Ability to improve flow and style of passages (Writing only)
  • English grammar and punctuation (Writing only)
  • Algebra (linear equations, functions, inequalities, etc.)
  • Nonlinear expressions
  • Data analysis (rates, ratios, percentages, graphs, etc.)
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Complex numbers
ScoringOne Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score on a scale of 160-760One Math score on a scale of 160-760

Step 2: Have a Specific Score Target:

Keeping a clear score target will improve your attitude towards cracking the PSAT and also great positivity towards the whole process. It also eliminates stress levels and gives clarity of mind towards the prep. If the goal is to get National Merit Scholarship, the PSAT score should be greater than or equal to the state’s cutoff score.
To get the National Merit, a score of 1400- 1480 on the PSAT is a good target to have. The scores cutoff varies based on the state but it is always good to aim higher for better results.


Step 3: Don’t Neglect Practice Tests:

A lot of students focus on getting the fundamentals right and focus on learning concepts but underestimate the importance of practice tests. Doing as many practice tests as possible will help the student to gain confidence and also score higher in the main examination. With ample resources online for practice tests, the student appearing for PSAT needs to focus on performing well in as many practice tests as possible.
Doing many practice tests serves as an important yardstick for the student’s progress. By analyzing the scores in practice tests, the student can get a good idea of where the focus is lacking and areas of improvement. This method of feedback-oriented preparation greatly increases the chances of scoring high on the PSAT.


Step 4: Address the Faults:

It is by making mistakes, that one tends to improve towards better scores and understand the areas of improvement. Take time to address the faults during the PSAT preparation and work on transforming them into strengths. The strategic method of working towards success can be greatly handy.


Step 5: Target Extra Practice:

When it comes to PSAT preparation, there is no upper limit for practice tests or getting the concepts right. Once the PSAT practice tests are done, also get a hand on SAT practice papers as well. The official website of the College Board has plenty of resources for the students to lay their hands on. Also, take a full-length SAT practice test by omitting the essay section- as PSAT doesn’t have it.
Should I Take PSAT Course for Better Scores?
As PSAT is relatively easier to ace compared to the SAT exam, most students may not require an exclusive course for preparation. However, to get a good understanding of the examination, and look up to how others are preparing for the test, there is an ample number of online courses which the aspirants can sign up for. The students who are serious about getting the National Merit Scholarship can highly benefit from PSAT preparatory course.


How is PSAT Different from SAT?

PSAT and SAT have almost the same curriculum and the type of questions asked but there are some key differences between both the tests.
1. PSAT is Easier than SAT- in terms of the difficulty level of questions asked.
2. There is no Essay section on PSAT- so students needn’t put effort into essay writing skills.
3. PSAT has Limited Resources- This can be a bit of a challenge for the people preparing for the PSAT because, in comparison with SAT, the resources are less for PSAT.

Importance of PSAT Prep: The Final Word:

For the students who are seriously aiming for National Exam Scholarship, PSAT can become a crucial standpoint. Moreover, preparing for PSAT also boosts the confidence levels of the student to excel in the SAT. It is to be noted that PSAT as an exam is less intense compared to the SAT.



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