Preparing for PSAT Exam Success

When discussions turn to preparing for college, much of the talk centers around admissions applications and financial aid. But one of the most important considerations when planning for college is your entrance exams. The SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, is a requirement for all college-bound students. This test examines your ability to reason, and to think logically. As the SAT does not test for specific fact based knowledge, it can prove difficult to study for. But there are ways in which a student can prepare for the SAT, and be ready to conquer the challenge of their college entrance exams.

Students preparing for their SAT exams can find sample questions through College Board, the administers and regulators of the SAT testing program. These questions can give you a general idea of what you will be facing when the time comes to take the SAT. Many students find these sample questions beneficial, but many more students opt to take the PSAT. The PSAT is practice test open to all college-bound students, and can can give your a real life look at what to expect on the SAT.

What is the PSAT?

The Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, is sponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The PSAT is organized in much the same manner as the official SAT, with regulated testing cycles and nationally standardized scoring procedures. The PSAT gives high school students hands on experience with the testing procedure, and allows them to judge their own results with an eye toward improving any areas in which they may be deficient, The value of the PSAT can not be overestimated. It allows students to become comfortable with the exam process, and provides them with an insight on what to expect on their official college entrance exams.

What is the PSAT Format?

The PSAT shares the same format as the official SAT exam. It contains sections on mathematics, reading comprehension and writing skills. The only differences are in the specific questions, the length of the exam and the lack of an essay section on the PSAT. The PSAT examines a student's writing skills by means of a series of multiple choice questions, while the official SAT requires that a finished essay be completed as part of the testing process.

The PSAT and the SAT also share the same level of difficulty. Students completing the PSAT will be able to use their test results to predict their potential scores on the official SAT exam. This gives the student the opportunity to recognize, and address, any areas of the exam in which they performed poorly.

PSAT tests

Planning for the PSAT

Students planning to take the PSAT must register at their high school for one of the regularly scheduled testing cycles. The test is open to all high school students in their junior year.

Preparing for the PSAT can be done in much the same way as you would prepare for the official SAT. A wide variety of books and study guides are available, as well as sample exams to get you ready for the testing procedure. Go College's Guide to Preparing for the SAT provides some valuable tips on preparing yourself both mentally and physically for the testing process. These same tips apply to the PSAT, and will be of great benefit to all students getting ready to take their preliminary, and/or official, college entrance exams.

What does my PSAT score tell me?

How you have performed on your PSAT exams will be a clear indication of your probable score on the official SAT. Your PSAT scores will allow you to see the areas in which you performed well, and the areas you need to work on. Again, while the SAT does not test for specific knowledge, and only gauges your ability to reason and think logically, conventional study techniques may not prove overly helpful. But having your scores on the PSAT will give you the opportunity to focus on sample questions for the sections in which you need improvement, and will help you prepare for any test anxiety you may have experienced.

Your PSAT scores will also give you a general understanding of your statistical relationship to other students across the country. That information will help you plan for your college admissions applications by giving you a clear idea of your competition. If you can use your PSAT results to improve your score on the SAT you can increase your chances of being accepted to your first college of choice.

Taking the PSAT offers a few additional benefits beyond giving you an opportunity to review and improve your test performance. The PSAT is co-sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, and by taking the exam you qualify for entrance into the National Merit Scholarship contests. Winning a National Merit Scholarship can help you find that extra money needed to pay your college tuition, as well as being an asset on your college applications and future resumes.

Finally, the PSAT can help open doors to the college of your choice. You will be given the option to enroll in the “Student Search Service”, which will allow colleges and universities to send you informational packages detailing their curriculum, admissions requirements and financial aid opportunities. This free information will help you to choice the right college to meet all of your post-secondary education goals.

Although the PSAT is not a requirement for admission to college, it does help you prepare for the SAT which you will need to take to be considered for any college or university. The insight and experience you obtain from the PSAT will help you to perform well on your SAT, and that will help you ensure that you are on the right track to succeed in your college career.