On Wednesday Oct. 11th, students in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades will take the College Board’s PSAT exam. PSAT scores can be used by high schools to help asses student progress in a number of academic areas, most broadly math, critical reading, and writing. Additionally, PSAT scores provide students and their families with the data necessary to prepare for success on the SAT exam.
Often, parents and students ask us about the PSATs, and how students can best prepare for the test. Here are the answers to our three most frequently asked questions about the PSAT.
Preparing for the PSAT is crucial to getting a good score.
What is the PSAT like? Is it the same as the SAT?
Like the SAT, the PSAT measures student ability in three main areas: reading, writing, and math. The PSAT, however, is structured a bit differently than the SAT. The PSAT begins with a 60-minute evidence-based reading section (47 questions), followed by a 35-minute writing section (44 questions), and concludes with a 70-minute math section (48 questions). And unlike the SAT, there is no optional essay section. Though the structure is slightly different, the question types in all three sections are identical to those on the SAT, and both tests use multiple choice questions only.
What is the best way to prepare for the PSAT?
Here are the steps we recommend students follow:
- Familiarize yourself with the test format. Know the sections, the number of questions, and timing for each. You can learn all about the PSAT format from the College Board website here
- Check out the College Board's"Test Day Checklist"to learn what test day will be like (what to bring, what not to bring, etc.). Also make sure your student knows their assigned testing room and how to get there.
- Practice, practice, practice! In our work helping students prepare for the SAT and PSAT, the number one predictor of student success has been student practice. Students should complete at least one timed practice section for each section of the test. The College Board has made two full PSAT tests available for practice here. There are more sample questions for each sectionhere. The College Board has also partnered with the Khan Academy to provide students with a wealth of PSAT/SAT prep resources and practice materials. A student can actually link their College Board account with their Khan Academy account for personalized SAT programs based on PSAT scores. Students can access the Khan Academy PSAT/SAT prep resources here.
- Go into the test relaxed and confident. There is nothing to be afraid or nervous about. Your PSAT scores will not be seen by colleges and are only used to help you become a better student and be more successful on the SAT. Just do your best, no need to stress!
When do I get my SAT scores and what do they mean?
Students usually receive PSAT scores in early to mid-December. PSAT scores are meant to predict a student's approximate score on the SAT at the time they took the PSAT. This helps identify a student's SAT related strengths and weaknesses. The scores also help your student's teachers determine academic strengths and weaknesses, and track your students growth from the ninth to eleventh grades. If you've linked your College Board and Khan Academy accounts, Khan Academy will use PSAT scores to design an individualized SAT prep program
Feel free to email us with any other PSAT or SAT related questions. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck on the test!
If you study, you could be like Vincent Falardeau '18 and become a National Merit Semifinalist!