As a student, if you plan to sit for the PSAT in October, it will be important to adjust your preparation in key ways. Here are three areas to keep in mind as you study for the PSAT and the SAT.
Content: The redesigned PSAT, which will be released in October, will shift its emphasis from rote memorization of content to evidence-based analysis. The effects of this shift on grammar and vocabulary questions have been widely publicized, and students should note that how they study for these sections will have to change as well.
For instance, memorizing lists of commonly-tested vocabulary will no longer be effective. Since the PSAT and the SAT will assess your vocabulary skills by embedding terms within larger passages, the ability to use the surrounding context to determine the meaning of a word, rather than simply memorizing a definition, will be the most useful skill for this section.
Similarly, grammar questions will also involve working with grammatical mistakes in context, rather than in isolated sentences. Be sure to supplement your PSAT studying with consistent reading and writing practice. Something as common as reading for pleasure can broaden your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar in various contexts.
Questions on the math section will also place more emphasis on analysis and context than they will on rote memorization – geometry will be de-emphasized, for example. This will allow for more problems that involve charts, graphs and data analysis. As you design your PSAT prep plan, schedule additional time for these sorts of involved problems.
Length: The redesigned PSAT will be 35 minutes longer than the current test and will have an additional 14 questions. This means you will need to train yourself to focus over the entire, extended length of the exam.
Full-length practice tests will be extremely important in this regard. It will also be wise to devote extra attention to your time management strategies. As you complete practice tests, aim to maintain the same pace and level of energy throughout the entire exam.
Answers: The redesigned PSAT will use four multiple-choice answers instead of five. And just like the redesigned SAT, there will be no guessing penalty.
The strategies that you may have learned about how and when to guess on the PSAT, such as guessing if you can eliminate one or more options, are no longer valid. Instead, you can safely guess whenever a question seems mystifying, even if you cannot eliminate any answer choices.
With that said, do not allow this new freedom to stop you from systematically eliminating answer choices when you can, and ensure that you note any practice test questions that you guessed on so that you can review them if time permits. Be aware that this creates an extra time management wrinkle, as you will need to leave ample time at the end of your exam session to look over these questions.
The test is, of course, optional. So why does it matter?
Scores can lead to National Merit Scholarships: The National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses these scores to qualify semifinalists who are then considered for National Merit Scholarship competition. Recognition by the National Merit program provides a monetary award and can often be leveraged to secure additional scholarships.
Recipients and finalists can become eligible for corporate scholarships and many universities offer National Merit Scholarship participants institutional grants and merit scholarships as well. In some cases, these grants cover full tuition!
Good scores can indicate performance on the SAT: PSAT prep is a terrific way to familiarize yourself with the structure, content and process of taking the SAT and get a sense of how you’ll perform on the actual exam (especially the new SAT). Your score can show you which subjects you may not be particularly strong in, regardless of your grades in related classes.
For example, your A’s in English class may not amply reflect your knowledge of obscure vocabulary or the specific essay writing skills that are critical for success on the test. Your score on the verbal section can more accurately tell you how prepared you are and therefore allow you to concentrate on studying for what you are weakest in to improve your score for the real thing.
Doing well can provide a big confidence boost: Test anxiety and a fear of the unknown can have a negative impact on students taking the SAT for the first time. However, if you’ve already done well on the PSAT, you’ll be at a distinct advantage.
The redesigned PSAT can be conquered with the right PSAT prep. Noting the information discussed above can help you find greater success not only on the PSAT, but also on the SAT. Biltmore Tutoring’s tutors can help guide you through this process — call (828) 505-2495 to discuss our SAT, ACT and PSAT prep options in more detail.