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How to Prepare for the PSAT: 5-Step Guide to PSAT Preparation


The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a standardized test administered by the College Board and co-sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the United States. The PSAT/NMSQT is administered by local education institutions in October of each year and is a great opportunity for students to prepare for the SAT.

Focused test preparation helps improve a student’s confidence and sharpens their test-taking skills for the SAT test. For those considering study abroad, performing well on the PSAT/NMSQT can be a crucial step in the preparation process.

If you are registered for the PSAT, make the most of it with this step-by-step timeline as you brace yourself for this test!


Step 1: PSAT Preparation and Understanding the Test Structure

The best way to get started on PSAT preparation is to understand the format of the test, including the questions it’ll present and the concepts it’ll test you on.

While the official College Board site shares detailed information on the structure and the PSAT scoring guide, the test is basically split into four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math No-Calculator, and Math Calculator.

Related Blog Post: How the SAT Works? Format Breakdown and Function of the SAT

The PSAT’s Critical Reading test includes reading comprehension questions based on text passages, and all questions are multiple-choice with four answer choices. They also include exercises that ask you to complete a series of sentences.

The PSAT Writing and Language test includes multiple-choice questions that involve identifying word choice errors and grammar mistakes in the reading passages.

The Math test sections of the PSAT include multiple-choice questions and grid-in (calculation) questions. Topics include numbers and operations; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; problem-solving and data analysis, and probability.


Step 2: Setting Up a Target PSAT Score

The PSAT is graded on a scale of 320 to 1520. The average PSAT score is around 920 while an outstanding PSAT score lies between 1420 and 1480.

●       Once you have gained a fair sense of the PSAT score range, it is important to set up a benchmark for yourself which you should strive to meet during the practice tests.
●       The best thing about multiple-choice questions, whether from English or math sections, is that they give you the answer, and your job becomes just to recognize the correct one for each question.
●       Since the PSAT is a terrific way to familiarize yourself with the structure and content of taking the SAT, a comparison of your actual score with the target score can show you which areas need improvement, regardless of your grades in related classes.

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Step 3: Taking PSAT Practice Tests

If your goal is to perform well on the PSAT—whether because you hope to qualify for National Merit or simply for a better chance of scoring well on the SAT, you’ll need to engage yourself in some serious preparation.

●       Taking PSAT practice tests is the best way to brush up on your skills. There are several websites that provide sample tests along with detailed answers. You can also take advantage of the resources recommended by the College Board.
●       When you actually take the practice tests, be sure to simulate testing conditions by timing yourself and making sure you’re familiar with the test format and instructions.
●       These tests allow you to score your own self and learn from your mistakes.

Related Blog Post: What Is the SAT Experimental Section? – Solving The SAT Conundrum


Step 4: Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses

Here’s a thought: If you do nothing about your test scores, how are you going to perform better on the SAT?

●       Catching hold of your mistakes arising in the practice tests becomes quintessential. More importantly, do not let them have a negative impact on your preparation.
●       Find out if there are any patterns in those mistakes. Make sure you spend time especially on the questions you didn’t answer at all.
●       For the math and reading sections, make notes of the questions you missed, and ensure to solve the problems once more after initially jotting down the correct solutions.


Step 5: Finding the right resources as you prepare the perfect schedule

●       PSAT preparation books can do wonders in your preparation for the PSAT test. So, it is important to read reviews, browse online, do your research, and purchase the right content.
●       The College Board has some materials on their site, and of course, there are countless SAT prep books and sample test papers available on the internet as well as at your local bookstores.
●       Prepare a meticulous schedule ahead of D-day, and make sure you allow enough time to focus on the key areas.  By making the most of the available resources, you can prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT in the most efficient way possible.
●       It is also important to take at least one timed, full-length practice test about a week prior to the real PSAT. Simulating testing conditions as closely as possible can help you become more comfortable with the PSAT exam experience.

Adhering to a study timeline can prepare you mentally in the crucial days before the PSAT. Remember, you can always adjust the timeline to suit your needs. Be consistent, focused, and – most importantly – stay calm!

Manya – The Princeton Review PSAT preparation comes with the most updated, comprehensive PSAT preparation course materials, based on the deliberate analysis of our Uber trainers. Get trained by our expert instructors, who have gone through certification training, and are experienced to help you meet your needs for PSAT test prep. Here at Manya, you can get ready for the SAT by getting the best PSAT prep online with a personalized study plan, student portal, practice tests, detailed score reports, refreshers, and much more. 

If this article has helped you plan ahead for the PSAT exams, be sure to share it to help others who might be looking to take the exams.

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