Few things are as nerve-wracking as knowing you have a big test coming up and not knowing if you're studying the right things. The PSAT is kind of like that. You know it's important, but can you really do anything to prep yourself to get a great score? The PSAT helps you practice for bigger tests like the SAT. Without the pressure of knowing that colleges will see the results, you can learn what the SAT is like, understand the question format, and get comfortable with the test's timing. And while the PSAT can potentially put you in the running for big scholarships, it’s still an excellent way for you to just gauge your grasp of lots of different topics and ideas. The practice alone makes the test worth taking, but no one wants to go into it unprepared. So what should your PSAT test prep include?
1. Challenge yourself in high school
You've probably already done a lot of the legwork for the PSAT without even realizing it. If you've taken challenging high school classes, have good study habits, and kept up with your homework, you're already ahead of the game. Remember the test assesses your broad knowledge; you don't have to know everything about every subject to get a great score.
2. Take a practice test
The College Board knows how tough it is to study for standardized tests, so they give you lots of ways to practice for the PSAT. When you register, you'll get a practice test booklet—so use it! Taking the practice test, whether on paper and online, gives you an idea of how much time you'll have and what the questions are like, so make sure you set a timer for two hours and 45 minutes! And it's okay to guess on the PSAT. The new PSAT design lets you guess without penalty; only your correct answers earn points.
Related: The Best Ways to Improve Your SAT Scores
3. Take a PSAT prep class
If you don't think you'll actually sit and take the practice tests on your own, signing up for a test prep class not only forces you to show up but also to do the work (bonus if your friends take the class with you). Some schools offer these classes, but if yours doesn't, you can find one through private tutors and organizations.
4. Utilize study apps
Find websites that offer daily SAT practice questions. Although they're really for SAT prep, it can't hurt for you to build this into your study routine now. And it’s only one question a day—easy! You might not know all the answers, but these easy (and free) study resources get you thinking every day. And if you stumble upon something like an algebra problem that you think you should know but don't, work it out until you understand it. The more practice you get for the PSAT, the better off you'll be.
Related: The Top 7 Apps for High School Students
5. Read all kinds of books
The PSAT sections that test your vocabulary and reading comprehension are also looking to see if you can figure out words and overall meaning by analyzing context. The more you read in and out of class, the easier this will be for you. Think of it this way: Simply reading books before you go to bed is the kind of PSAT test prep you don’t even have to think about!
6. Take a breath and rest
Don't sweat the big day. It’s going to come no matter what, and staying up all night trying to cram in every last second of studying will get you nowhere. Remember: This is a preliminary test—so take it seriously but not too seriously. Get a good night's sleep the night before. Also eat some breakfast and have a big glass of water to jump-start your brain the morning of.
Related: Top Sleep Hygiene Advice for Tired Students
The PSAT helps you gain the test-taking skills you need to nail the SAT and thrive in college courses. If you’re applying to schools that require the SAT or ACT for admission, you’ll want to put your best scores forward—and taking the PSAT will help you do just that. Try your hardest and use the results to work on any weak points toward a higher score in the future. Good luck!
When you’re ready to start thinking about scheduling your official standardized tests, use our SAT and ACT Date Wheel to find a day that works for you!