The PSAT: Tips for Success

Posted by Roxanne Zeisloft, High School Guidance Counselor on April 18, 2016



 The PSAT is a preliminary SAT exam that also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Not only does the PSAT help prepare students to take the SAT, a great score on the PSAT can open the door to the National Merit Scholarship and other awards. So, the PSAT is very beneficial for college bound students to take in their 10th and/or 11th grade year.

Here are a few tips for students to keep in mind about the new PSAT:

  • Become familiar with the test format; the College Board website has sample questions and practice tests (
  • You may use a calculator on certain portions of the math section. Be sure to know how to use all of your calculator functions and check to make sure that your calculator is in good working order
  • The great thing about multiple-choice questions, whether they focus on writing or math, is that they give you the answer. Your job is simply to recognize it. In the writing portion, you’ll be tested on your knowledge of grammatical rules and sentence structure. Generally, the object of your search is clarity, so the simplest answer is usually the best. If a response seems awkward or overly complex, it is likely to be incorrect
  • An educated guess always beats a blind stab, so try and reason your choices down to two before taking a guess. In doing so, you’ll greatly improve your chances of success. The PSAT only penalizes you for wrong answers, so there is no penalty for guessing!
  • Get plentTest_Taking.jpgy of rest the night before the exam and eat a good breakfast the morning of the exam. The PSAT is will take almost 3 hours to complete. That requires stamina and energy.

Taking the PSAT is a win-win. Students have an opportunity to become more familiar with college admissions exams, without being concerned about colleges seeing their score (PSAT scores are not reported to colleges). Seeing their own score report enables students to assess their strengths and weakness, which will help them more strategically prepare for the SAT. Statistically, students that take the PSAT tend to perform better on the SAT.

Students interested in taking the PSAT will need to register by contacting their local school district in the spring prior to when they plan on taking the exam.   Agora does not administer the exam, but all college bound students are highly encouraged to participate. The Agora High School Guidance Counselors provide resources, PSAT workshops, and are available to answer additional question about the PSAT.