Are you hoping to be a National Merit Finalist? Or maybe even trying to qualify for a College Board recognition program if you’re a Hispanic student or an African American student? In this blog, we’re going to talk about how to crush the PSAT and how to score so high that you can get commended status or finalist status!
The first thing we want to let you know is that the PSAT and SAT are essentially the same test, so you want to study for the PSAT basically in the same way that you would study for the SAT.
Number two: reading and writing counts more than math on the PSAT than it does on the SAT. With the National Merit Selection Index, reading, writing, and math all count equally in your score. We realize that to be a National Merit Finalist in most states, you need to have a near-perfect score everywhere, so you really need to be pushing yourself on every section and perfecting everything. But we will say that, if you have to choose, the reading and writing section is more important at the end of the day because it counts more.
The third tip is that you should have some general reading strategies down and not just do the practice tests when studying.
Fourth, you should learn every grammar rule. If you don’t have time for every rule, Brooke’s best-scoring students usually need to work on punctuation (commas, colons, semicolons, and dashes), keep delete, placement, transitions, comparisons, rhetorical strategy, diction, and idiom questions the most. Diction and idiom are the hardest types of questions to tackle, but make sure to search up SAT—don’t search for PSAT because there’s not going to be a lot of that out there—material related to all of these rules.
Fifth, don’t underestimate rustiness in the math section. Many times, what happens with students who want National Merit and think they’re almost there, is that when they go over the math section, they only focus on the questions they have no idea how to do. And they don’t focus enough on the ones they’re a little rusty on. For example, if they go over a question from the math section and think that they know how to do it and that it makes sense, they end up not worrying about it too much and letting it be. But if you’re missing questions that you “know how to do,” that indicates that you’re a little rusty. More than that, a lot of the time, Brooke has students that barely finish their math sections in time, and that means that they could use more practice on all of the individual types of questions that might be taking a little too long. You should be finishing with five or ten minutes minimum left at the end of every math section, and having time to double-check is really important when you’re going for something like the National Merit. Finishing faster and double-checking is a better way to a great score than being super careful as you go and running out of time.
Our next tip is that you want to use real tests while practicing. We have two real tests on our website (supertutortv.com/resources), but if you want more, you can Google “Reddit megathread PSAT QAS” and you will probably find a big folder repository of PDFs of past exams.
And the very last tip is a reading tip: remember the scope of the question. The most important piece of information for the reading section is the question stem, meaning the question that you’re being asked, not just putting an answer that’s true. When it gets to the really hard questions, focusing on the scope of what exactly is being asked in the question, where that answer would be, and what that answer would be is going to get you closer to the perfect answer that’s going to match up with the answer available and get you closer to getting the answer right.
And that’s all we have for you today, but we hope that this has been helpful!