Milestone How To: Five ways to ace the PSAT

Although it may be considered an extremely important test to determine the future of a student, in reality, the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) is just that: only a test. With the increased emphasis on doing well on these examinations, whether practice or the real thing, students still fret.

So how exactly can test takers prepare for a test that is supposed to be over knowledge that has been accumulated over an entire school career? It’s impossible go back in time to previous classes and review the material.  A better way to prepare is to review useful strategies and the test format to lessen the ever-growing anxiety.

Check out these “How To’s” for a more successful PSAT experience:

How to prepare the night before. “get a good night’s rest and eat breakfast in the morning,” does not always work that way. The night before, be sure to look over any last minute strategies that could help and would be beneficial. Also, be sure not to wait until the night before to look at them for the first time. This could actually cause more stress the night before than not reading it at all. The PSAT site through is helpful for this how to.

How to relax. Stress builds as juniors prepare for this round of the PSAT/NMSQT, which counts for scholarship opportunities through the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Junior Mary-Kate Dowling is anxious for this upcoming test. “It is the first big test colleges will be look at,” she said. While this is true, the PSAT is also a chance to prepare for the SAT, which many juniors will take in the spring.  The PSAT is not only practice for the real thing, it is also an opportunity for them to become recipients of the National Merit Scholarship. This opens up a number of different scholarships when it comes time for them to submit their applications to colleges.

How to limit the stress and increase your score. There are many ideas on how to increase scores, whether it is through online sources, prep classes, or anyone who has taken it previously.  One of many resources available is the Practice for the PSAT from the College Board. This resource gives helpful hints on taking certain portions of the test along with ways to keep the score higher, especially if a student’s goal is to qualify for the National Merit Scholarships.

How to utilize the strategies. For sophomores taking the PSAT, the National Merit Scholarship Competition does not yet apply, but it does for juniors. Strategies can be used to find the answer, even if you may not actually know it. In order to use these strategies, however, a clear mind and a deep breath can help you remember them and maximize your potential.

How to take the PSAT. The key to taking the PSAT is to relax and answer only those questions you readily know. Unless there is a 50-50 chance of getting it right, do not answer it. When completing a sentence in the vocabulary section, cover up the word and replace it with a well-known or common word and then find synonyms for that one instead. If a question is taking you too long, skip it and come back later if there is time. This will ensure that adequate time is spent on all questions.

While most sophomores do not need to worry as much about the test counting until their junior year, it is still important to pay attention to different strategies and to be attentive to each section. “Sophomore year, I did not take it seriously,” Dowling added, “This year with the National Merit Scholarship, it is a lot more stressful.” By taking this upcoming PSAT, either as a sophomore or a junior, students can ensure that future tests will be less stressful.

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