If you're planning to apply to college, taking the PSAT as a sophomore in high school is a great way to familiarize yourself with the kinds of questions that appear on the SAT. You will also gain valuable experience before taking the PSAT again in 11th grade, when you could be competing for scholarships and commendations from the National Merit Scholarship Program. There are several steps you can take to prepare for the PSAT and make the most of this opportunity to sharpen the skills you will need for college study.
Know the Format
To avoid any surprises on test day, you can become well-acquainted with the structure and content on the PSAT in advance. The PSAT measures critical reading, math and writing skills. The test includes two 25-minute critical reading sections, two 25-minute math sections and one 30-minute writing skills section. The whole test lasts two hours and 10 minutes.
Get Ready to Read
The PSAT critical reading sections include reading comprehension questions and sentence completions. The best way you can prepare for both of these is to read as much as you can. Beyond what you are reading for school, you can read newspapers, books and anything else that interests you and helps you develop your ability to analyze what you’ve read. You can also work on improving your vocabulary.
The PSAT math sections cover numbers and operations, algebra and functions, geometry and measurement, and data analysis, statistics and probability. There are a total of 28 multiple choice questions and 10 questions in which you write in your answer. In addition to reviewing your notes from your math classes, completing as many of the practice problems on the official PSAT website as possible will familiarize you with actual test material.
Be a Writing Whiz
The multiple choice questions in the PSAT writing section test your ability to express yourself in standard written English and to recognize errors in usage and structure. Brushing up on grammar rules from your English classes can help you prepare. You can also take advantage of the PSAT practice questions and SAT writing section tips on the College Board website. Working on official material is the best way to prepare for what you will see on test day.
Based in New York City, Kristine Jannuzzi covers arts and culture, food, wine and education. Her articles have been published in “Listen: Life with Classical Music” magazine, “NYU Alumni Magazine” and online. Jannuzzi holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and music theory/history from New York University.