What is PSAT Prep?

B. Miller

PSAT prep is preparatory studying for the Preliminary SAT, also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). It is an optional test that the College Board administers, and is used both as a preparation for the SAT® and as a qualifying exam for a National Merit Scholarship. Students may take the PSAT during their sophomore and junior years of high school, but it is only during the junior year that they can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

A No. 2 pencil for use with the PSAT.
A No. 2 pencil for use with the PSAT.

In general, PSAT prep involves learning as much as possible about the exam ahead of time to reduce stress and anxiety on test-taking day. When the student already knows the instructions and format for each section, as well as the types of questions he or she will be asked, he is able to focus on the material and relax. There are three sections to the PSAT: mathematics, critical reading, and writing skills.

Some PSAT questions are multiple choice.
Some PSAT questions are multiple choice.

The PSAT takes approximately two and a half hours to complete, consisting of multiple choice, sentence completion, and grid-in questions, along with a writing section. There are a few different methods of PSAT prep that can be beneficial to the student. The first is to take a PSAT prep class at school; many schools offer after-school programs to help students study for the test.

Another method is to purchase a software program designed for PSAT prep. The program will likely have games, sample questions, and full-length practice exams to familiarize the student completely with the test. When taking a practice exam for PSAT prep, it is important to treat the practice exam as if it is the real thing. This means timing each section and answering each question as if it is actually the test.

Another method of PSAT prep is to search online for free study guides. There are many PSAT study guides and free programs available, and there are some more detailed ones online that require a small fee. Each of these will also offer a number of sample questions and practice exams, with explanations available for questions that the student answers incorrectly.

For students who have particular difficulty in a subject area, a tutor might also be a good way to prepare for the PSAT. Students are not asked to recall specific facts from their classes on the test, however. Instead, the PSAT is designed to allow students to demonstrate their ability to apply their knowledge in different ways on the test. Scores will then show the specific numerical score for each section, as well as a percentage ranking that shows where a student scores as compared to other students in the same grade.

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