Worried about the PSAT? We’ve got you covered.

By Bruna Abrão

The PSAT is here, and for the ones who are taking it for the first time (myself included), my first tip is don’t freak out. In the end of the day, it is just a practice. The whole intent of the PSAT is for you to figure out where you’re at so that you can set up your game plan and be ready when you have to take the SAT or the ACT. The only thing it really counts for is the National Merit Scholarship Qualification and the National Merit Commended Qualification, which you can be qualified to if you score on the top 2% of students in the United States. However, they are both only available to American citizens. Anyway, here are some tips, tricks and strategies to help you do well on  the PSAT.

Familiarize yourself with the test

The first thing you should do is to take a look at the practice tests. You can find them online, or by looking at the booklet which was given to you a few weeks ago (Mr. Hornbuckle probably has spare ones). If you don’t have three spare hours time to take the entire practice test beforehand, you should at least look over the directions, which are basically the same for every test.

Another thing you should probably figure out before taking the test is how to grid the math problems. If you don’t know how to do that, here’s how. First you write your answer in the boxes at the top of the columns. This is not required, but it might help you. Then, color the circles with your answer. You cannot color more than one circle in each column. Dots and slashes have their own column, and no question have negative answers. If a problem has more than one answer, grid only one of them. Mixed numbers have to be written as either decimals or as fractions. Otherwise, 3½ could be interpreted as 31/2. Lastly, if you have a decimal answer with more digits than the grid can accommodate, you can round it, but you must fill the entire grid.

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Materials you will need

  1. A Number 2 pencil and an eraser. Mechanical pencils are not allowed.
  2. An approved graphing calculator (Ti-84 works).
  3. A watch that doesn’t beep so you can easily time yourself. There will also be a visible clock in the testing room, so this isn’t an absolute requirement.
  4. A water bottle (It’s very dry this time of the year, and the test is very long. Stay hydrated).

Pace yourself

Don’t get too hung up on one or two questions. Otherwise you might spend ten or even fifteen minutes on the same question and then you won’t have time to finish the test. It’s not a very good gauge of what you are capable of if you spend all your time on this question that is only worth one point, and you didn’t even get to the rest of the questions that you could have very well gotten right. So make sure you don’t lose track of time. If you’re having trouble with one question, try putting a giant star right next to it and come back to it after you finish the rest.

Guessing

To make this very clear, I don’t recommend guessing, but if for some reason you didn’t pace yourself or you couldn’t finish in time, make sure you fill in every bubble on that test. There’s no penalty for guessing, and this way you will get at least a probabilistic chance of getting those right.

So these are the tips that I have for you today. And, again, don’t freak out. It’s all good. Good luck!