When it comes to the numerous assessments that the College Board offers, it can be a little confusing on what each test deals with.
Hence, it is important to know exactly what you are getting into so that you can make an appropriate decision on which exams to register for. In this article, we will dig a little deeper into the PSAT and explore how you can prepare for it and why you should take it up.
The PSATs is considered a practice test of the SAT. The PSATs are considered a base for the national merit scholarship test that US citizen students are eligible to take. If you receive a high score on the PSAT in your junior year, you will be one of the eligible students to acquire a portion of the $180 million that is usually awarded.
Like the SATs, the PSAT’s also has two major sections, math and evidence-based writing and reading for which each of the sections has multiple-choice questions. Unlike the SATs, the duration of this exam is only 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Furthermore, the usual cost of the PSAT is covered by the high school, however, a fee of $16 is paid for the textbooks in addition to any possible costs for the administration of the test. As for international students, the fees vary depending on their region.
In order to secure a spot in the 99th percentile, which is a top category that makes you eligible for the scholarship, a composite score of between 1370-1520 is preferred. Each section has a maximum of 760 points and the score of the total test is awarded out of 1520 points only.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the PSATs are only administered once a year in October, usually, from the 9th through the 11th grade.
So why should you take the PSAT? As you may know, the SAT is majorly taken to assess the readiness for your undergraduate admissions. While the PSAT score is not directly used for the admission process, it acts as a primer for your SAT score. As the SAT is highly crucial to undergraduate admissions, it can give you good practice before attempting the SAT and help you familiarise yourself with the content.
Additionally, it also provides a good indicator of just how much you would need to practice for the SAT so that you could allot time and practice accordingly. This is because your score in the PSAT will most likely be the score you receive on your SAT as well.
If you were to secure a spot in the 99th percentile, it also gives you the added benefit of receiving a scholarship which can help reduce your financial burden greatly. Not only can you receive a scholarship from the College Board, but also from universities.
Certain universities and colleges also take a look at your PSAT score to see if you could qualify for any scholarships or just to be a part of their student population in general. While it may not contribute to your applications significantly, every little thing counts.
Now that you are convinced of why you should take up the PSAT, how can you prepare for it?
Improve your vocabulary
In order to tackle the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, you must ensure that you build your vocabulary each day as much as possible.
Usually, students use flashcards to learn the meaning of 5 or 10 new words each day and apply them in a real-life setting. This will save time when it comes to comprehension as you will understand the text much better.
Make sure that you start to improve your vocabulary way in advance of your test in order to retain that memory and understand the different vocabulary better.
If we wait for the moment when absolutely everything is ready we shall never begin. – Ivan Turgenev
Improve your reading and writing
When it comes to the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, it can be a little difficult to finish it within the time constraint. Hence, reading and writing are extremely crucial to doing well in this section.
Furthermore, familiarizing yourself with the texts and vocabulary will help you comprehend the different sections much better.
When it comes to the history text, it is highly recommended to do some background reading on American history so that not only will the content be familiar to you, but also the style of writing.
Practice, practice, practice!
The best and most efficient way to increase your PSAT score is by taking up practice tests. Once you have familiarized yourself with the content in both math and English, it is time for you to take your pencil and start shading in some answers.
When you do this, you start to understand the type of questions that could come your way and the way the PSAT is structured. It also allows you to identify your weaknesses so that you could focus on them more and turn them into strengths.
Furthermore, practicing the PSAT allows you to become more time-efficient and tells you which areas you need to spend more time focusing on.
Especially, when it comes to the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, it can be a little difficult to finish it within the time constraint. Hence, practicing allows you to be better, even if it is only by a minute each time you take it.
Create a schedule… and stick to it
There are tons of topics to learn for the PSAT and a lot of practice required to ace it. Creating a schedule can help you be more organized and ensure that you have covered everything necessary and beyond. With school and extracurriculars, it is absolutely essential to fix a routine and stick to it.
Discover your weaknesses
Don’t spend time learning and practicing the topics that you are already familiar with. Especially when it comes to the math section, most of the topics have already been dealt with at school.
Therefore, to allocate your time efficiently, focus on the topics or sections that you struggle with most, whether it be algebra or the history text in reading.
Most importantly, get a good night’s rest and come prepared on test day, knowing that you will do amazingly well. Don’t second guess yourself and just go with your gut.
Good luck, you got this.