5 Tips for Conquering the PSA

Now that we’re almost a month into the school year, the first standardized test is right around the corner. The PSAT is a pre-SAT test made up of four sections: reading, grammar and language, non-calculator math, and calculator math. It is the test that determines which students will qualify as National Merit Semifinalists, but isn’t optional. As the first standardized test of the year, the PSAT can seem daunting, but like any test there are several simple strategies to make it easy:


  • Get a good night of sleep and eat breakfast before the test. You’ve probably been hearing this advice since elementary school regarding being properly fed and rested before a test, but it’s some of the best and most effective test advice I’ve ever gotten. Eating and sleeping well ensure that you’ll be able to focus fully on the test without being distracted by fatigue or an empty stomach.
  • Bring something to do during the break periods. The PSAT takes two hours and forty-five minutes to complete in total, but during the official exam, there are short breaks between the four sections. Bring a snack, water bottle and a book or something else to do during your breaks. Staying full and hydrated will help you focus on the test and doing something else like reading or simply taking some deep breaths takes your mind off the intensity of the test and lets you reset for the next section.
  • Skip the questions you don’t know and come back to them. When you hit a question or segment that confuses you, skip it and move on to one that you know you can do easily and correctly. By doing the questions you find easy first in a section, you’ll be able to get the most problems right in the smallest amount of time without spending a large part of your time on a few hard questions. With that being said, if your time for a section is almost over and you haven’t answered all the questions, guess and fill in a random letter. By guessing, you have a 25 percent chance of getting the question right!


    • Read each question carefully. The PSAT test writers will often hide important details in confusing wording in test questions. Before starting to answer, reread the question so you’re sure of exactly what it’s asking, if there’s any special language in the question (for example if it’s asking which of the answers is not correct), underline it.


  • Don’t worry! Although the PSAT can seem intimidating, it’s just another test. With smart strategies and good preparation, it’s very manageable. Signup for the PSAT goes until October 2nd and costs $25, while the actual test is October 19th at Memorial. Good luck!

By Julianna Baldo



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