7 PSAT Tips & Test Taking Advice To Rock The PSAT [2023] (2023)

Many of the things a high school student must do to prepare for college is take placement tests, academic tests, and more. While there are many tests out there that a student needs to take, the PSAT is one of the more common tests available.

Many high school students, however, do not know how to prepare for the PSAT or what to expect. In this article, we will look at several PSAT test taking tips that are ideal for helping high school students prepare for this test and potentially land a great scholarship!

Taking the PSAT? Check out the best PSAT prep books that will improve your score!

PSAT Tip #1: Know the Difference

Before you can adequately prepare for the PSAT, you need to first understand what the PSAT is and how it differs from the SAT. The SAT is a standardized test for high school students that provides students admission into various colleges depending on the score and the college of choice. However, the PSAT is something else entirely.

The PSAT is a test that cannot get you into college, but it can put the student that takes the test into the running for something called the National Merit Scholarship. While this test cannot be used to provide admission into college, it can provide huge financial help for college, should the student score extremely high on the PSAT. This test is still important for students to take, even if it doesn’t provide admission into college like the SAT.

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How do the tests differ in terms of content? Well, the PSAT is shorter and does not have an essay. But beyond these minor discrepancies, there is not a whole lot of different between what you’re being tested on. This can be good news for you, especially if you begin prepping for the PSAT, as this will, in effect, get you brushed up and closer to rocking the SAT as well! Read more about the differences between these two tests in our article PSAT vs SAT.

Related: 12 Ideas on What to Do After High School

PSAT Tip #2: Set a Goal

Making our list of the top PSAT tips is setting a score goal. Before you begin your test and test prep, you should always come up with a good score goal as something to be working towards. Studies have shown that setting a goal for anything in life is a great way to prepare for a particular instance. The PSAT is no different.

If you are aiming to be awarded the National Merit Scholarship, then you will need to set your goal scores to near perfect, landing in the top 1% of all test takers. If, however, you are using the PSAT to indicate how well you will do on the SAT, then you will need to look at your target colleges and what kind of test scores they accept.

PSAT Tip #3: Practice on PSATs

Utilizing official PSAT practice tests is one of the most important PSAT tips we can offer you. To understand timing, what kind of questions you will experience, as well as difficulty of questions and when you need to either guess or move on, you must practice with official PSAT practice tests.

Because the PSAT had some changes in 2015, there are not a lot of current practice tests to choose from, but here are a few to start off with that are free:

(Video) How to Score a 1450+ on the PSAT®

Kaplan Free PSAT Practice Test

Free Online PSAT Practice Test

Official PSAT Practice Test 1

Official PSAT Practice Test 2

If you are still looking for more official PSAT practice tests, check out our list of 11 Free PSAT Practice Tests.

PSAT Tip #4: Analyze Your Mistakes

One way to learn from your PSAT and SAT tests is by analyzing your past mistakes on the test and work on the areas where you are lacking in skill. For example, if you find that you continue getting questions wrong in Math, studying harder for these weaker areas can help ensure that you know more information when you go in to take the second test. The best way to see where you are lacking is to look at your individual scores. Often, they will be broken down into sections according to the areas of study like Math, Science, and English. Once you have your areas of study where you did not perform quite so well, you can take the information and put more time into your studies or consider seeking out a tutor.

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Once you’ve narrowed down what you need to focus on, consider investing in a PSAT study guide to do any last-minute studying.

PSAT Tip #5: Practice on official SATs

One of the best PSAT test-taking tips is to use the SAT as a practice test for the real deal. Taking the practice SATs multiple times can help you prepare for the PSAT, since, as we discussed, don’t have a whole lot of difference between them! We recommend utilizing as many official SAT practice tests as possible, since these are going to be the closest thing to what you will actually see on the PSAT as well as the SAT.

Where to start? College Board offers some free SAT practice tests so that you can get working on the real thing:

SAT Practice Test 1

SAT Practice Test 2

If that’s not enough for you, you can also check out this list of official SAT practice tests.

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Keep in mind, while working through these official PSAT and SAT practice tests, you should be simulating real test taking conditions. That means timing yourself as well as only taking breaks when designated. This is going to get your endurance up as well as help you understand how quickly you need to work to finish the test.

PSAT Tip #6: Get Comfy with Your Calculator

Part of the PSAT is the math portion of the test. However, in order to perform well on the math portion of the test, using a calculator is almost a given. Since the test has advanced mathematics questions involved, it almost seems impossible to take the test without a calculator. If you walk into the test with a calculator that you are not comfortable using, chances are you’re not going to perform well on the test at all.

One of the best PSAT tips that often go undiscussed is to get extremely comfortable with your calculator, so you are prepared to use it come time for the math portion of the test. This means using it in classes as well as working through your practice tests with this calculator. If you don’t have a calculator yet, you can start with this list of the top 6 PSAT calculators.

PSAT Tip #7: Read More

Just like having a calculator that you are comfortable with, the English portions of the PSAT is easier when you’re comfortable reading and comprehending sections of text. One way to prepare for the reading portion is to read as much as you can before your test. Reading more can help boost the reading comprehension that is needed in order to pass the reading portion of the test as well as keep your mind sharp for when test day arrives. The more you read, the more you can understand the content and better answer the questions you will be asked. Not a huge bookworm? Don’t worry. Simply reading a short story or two a day can help you improve your reading comprehension for the PSAT.

Here is a great list of some top fiction books you can read that will also help to indirectly prepare you for the SAT.

Taking the PSAT is a common element of the high school checklist before graduation. While the PSAT will not help you gain admission to a college, it can help you enter to win the National Merit Scholarship that will help towards the tuition of the college of choice. The PSAT is a great test for providing students with a chance to earn a national scholarship that can be beneficial for their college education as well as feel more prepared and ready for the SAT. Using these PSAT test taking tips can help you dominate this standardized test.

(Video) What's a Good PSAT® Score?


How many questions are on the PSAT 2023? ›

The PSAT/NMSQT contains a total of 139 questions/tasks and has a time limit of 165 minutes (2 hours and 45 minutes).

How can I get good at PSAT? ›

How Do I Get a High PSAT Score?
  1. Take a practice test.
  2. Figure out your kryptonite – your biggest weaknesses.
  3. Drill your weaknesses, review your strengths.
  4. Check in with more practice tests.

What is the best answer choice to guess on the PSAT? ›


Before beginning the test, choose a letter to use for every guess you make. Maybe your letter is “A for Awesome!” or “D for Done!” It doesn't matter which letter you choose because they are all equally likely to be correct.

How do I prepare my child for the PSAT? ›

5 Helpful PSAT Test Prep Strategies for Students:
  1. Take a PSAT practice test. One of the best ways to gauge readiness for the exam and prep for PSAT success is by taking a practice exam. ...
  2. Create a study plan. ...
  3. Identify strengths and weaknesses. ...
  4. Set goal PSAT scores to work toward. ...
  5. Don't wait until the night before.
Aug 18, 2022

What are four tips for long term preparation for the PSAT? ›

5 Tips to Get You Ready for the PSAT
  • Recall the long-term strategy: reading and focusing in class. ...
  • Mark down your test date on a calendar. ...
  • Take a PSAT prep class. ...
  • Take a PSAT prep test. ...
  • Learn the PSAT format and educated guessing techniques.

What is a good PSAT score 2023? ›

The average PSAT/NMSQT score is about 920. A score between 1210 and 1520 puts you in the top 10% of test takers. The PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT are very similar tests, so your score on the PSAT/NMSQT can give you an idea of how you'll do when you take the SAT.

Is the PSAT changing in 2023? ›

Starting with the Fall 2023 exams, the paper version of the PSAT will no longer be offered and all PSATs will be administered in a digital format. If you're a junior in high school in Fall 2023, taking the PSAT in the new digital format will help you prep for the SAT.

What's a good PSAT score 2023? ›

If, as a 10th grader, you score at or above a 430 in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the PSAT 10 and at or above a 480 in Math, you are on track to be college-ready by the time you graduate from high school.

What is a good starting PSAT score? ›

1200 is a good PSAT score as a freshman. A composite score above 1170 is considered excellent.

What grade is best for PSAT? ›

Students should be sure to take the PSAT/NMSQT in 11th grade if they are interested in qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship or any other scholarships offered through the test.

What should you do the night before PSAT? ›

What Should I Do Before the PSAT: Last Minute PSAT Tips
  1. Know the route to the testing center.
  2. Get a good night's sleep.
  3. Eat breakfast.
  4. The night before and the morning of the exam, don't talk to friends about the test.
  5. Stretch out your muscles if you feel tense.
Sep 25, 2019

Is C usually the correct answer? ›

Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.

Is C the most common answer on PSAT? ›

On tests with four choices (say, A, B, C, and D), B was slightly more likely to be correct (28%). Remember, the expected likelihood of each option being correct is 25%. And on tests with five choices (say, A, B, C, D, and E), E was the most commonly correct answer (23%). C was the least (17%).

Is it better to skip a question or guess on the PSAT? ›

Even though there's a 75 percent chance of selecting the incorrect answer, you won't lose any points for doing so. The worst that can happen on the PSAT is that you'll earn zero points on a question, which means you should always at least take a guess, even when you have no idea what to do.

When should kids start studying for PSAT? ›

Typically, students want to start studying for the PSAT test no later than the summer before junior year. This will give time to prepare for the PSAT test in the fall and the SAT or ACT test in the winter or early spring. We suggest students complete their testing by the end of junior year.

What type of math is on the PSAT? ›

The PSAT Math questions focus on four areas: heart of algebra; problem solving and data analysis; passport to advanced math, and additional topics in math, including limited geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.

Should my daughter take the PSAT? ›

If your child is in 10th grade, they can benefit from taking the PSAT 10 in several ways. It identifies their academic strengths and weaknesses early in high school, when there's plenty of time to improve before college. It lets them know which Advanced Placement (AP) courses they're most likely to do well in.

What is the most common type of question on the PSAT? ›

Multiple-choice questions are the most commonly used type on the PSAT. Each question has four answer options, testing a variety of skills including vocabulary, grammar, and math problem-solving.

What are the most common math questions on the PSAT? ›

Linear equations and linear graphs are some of the most common test questions on the PSAT math test.

How many months should you study for the PSAT? ›

The College Board recommends that students study between 15 and 30 minutes per day a few times a week for a couple of months. Since Eighth-Graders, Freshmen, and Sophomores take the test in October, studying should begin at the start of the school year.

What is a good PSAT score for scholarships? ›

This means that a “perfect” PSAT score is 1520: 760 Math and 760 Evidence-Based Reading & Writing. The College Board has set “benchmarks” to college readiness for each of their tests. For the PSAT/NMSQT, those numbers are 460 for Reading & Writing and 510 for Math.

What PSAT score is required for Harvard? ›

In order to be on track for those scores on the SAT, students would have to earn a near-perfect score on the PSAT, which is a little shorter and easier than the SAT. That means a good PSAT score for students aiming at “Ivy Plus” schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, and Duke would be at least 1450.

How much PSAT score for National Merit Scholarship? ›

The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes exceptional college-bound students. But to become a National Merit Scholar, you'll need to outscore over 99% of PSAT test-takers.

Will PSAT be digital in 2023? ›

Starting in fall 2023, all students taking the PSAT-related assessments will take the digital tests. SAT School Day and SAT weekend administrations in the U.S. will still be paper and pencil. Starting in spring 2024, all students will take the full SAT Suite of Assessments digitally.

How much does the PSAT cost 2023? ›

The PSAT registration fee for the 2023-2024 school year is $18. Some high schools may charge students an additional fee to defray the cost of administering the test, while others will cover all or part of the cost for students.

Does the PSAT get harder every year? ›

Average PSAT scores will vary based on the grade level of the student taking the exam and, to a minimal degree, on the year in which the student takes the exam; in some years, the test may prove harder for students on average than in other years.

What is the average PSAT score for a 12th grader? ›

Takeaways for the PSAT Score Range

You'll also receive subscores with ranges of 1-15 and cross-test scores with ranges of 8-38. In regard to PSAT score distribution, most test takers score at or around 920, the halfway point between the minimum and maximum scores.

What is the average PSAT score for an 11th grader? ›

It depends: the average PSAT score for 10th graders is 920, and the average for 11th graders is 1010.

What is a good PSAT score for Ivy League? ›

In other words, if your main priority is getting into the Ivy League, you should aim for a composite PSAT score anywhere between 1280 and 1520. If you're looking at less selective institutions, then the 80th percentile is a good benchmark.

What is a bad PSAT score? ›

Below Average PSAT Scores: 320-950.

What is a bad PSAT score for a sophomore? ›

Based on that reasoning, a good PSAT score for a sophomore is a composite score higher than 1060, an OK score is one higher than 920, and an excellent score is anything higher than 1180.

What PSAT score do colleges look for? ›

Does the PSAT matter in college admissions? Colleges do not look at PSAT scores when making admissions decisions. But the PSAT serves two purposes in college admission. First, it gives your child a glimpse of how she'll do on the SAT.

Do colleges look at PSAT grades? ›

College Board does not send PSAT/NMSQT scores to colleges. These scores are not intended to be part of college admission decisions. They should not be included on student transcripts that will be reproduced and sent to colleges unless the student (if 18 or older) or their parent/guardian has granted permission.

What is the average PSAT score for a 10th grader? ›

The average PSAT 10 score is around 920. A score between 1210 and 1520 places you in the top 10% of test takers. The PSAT 10 and the SAT are very similar tests, and your score on the PSAT 10 can give you an idea of how you'll do when you take the SAT.

How do I stop being nervous for the PSAT? ›

So you're about to board the high-speed train that is the college admissions process. First stop: PSAT.
  1. Know what you are in for. You will be a lot calmer wielding that No. ...
  2. Be mindful of myths. Misinformation about standardized tests abounds. ...
  3. Plan ahead. Start preparing now. ...
  4. Just chill.
Feb 13, 2018

Should I drink coffee before PSAT? ›

If you normally drink coffee or tea before school, it's okay to have your usual amount before the test. However, if it's not a normal part of your routine, don't try it out on test day. Caffeine can affect people differently, and you don't want to risk feeling sick or jittery.

What letter is the most common answer? ›

C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test. Ok, myths exposed, let's move on to how and when to guess.

What is the most popular multiple-choice answer? ›

The idea that C is the best answer to choose when guess-answering a question on a multiple choice test rests on the premise that ACT answer choices are not truly randomized. In other words, the implication is that answer choice C is correct more often than any other answer choice.

What is the best letter to guess on the SAT? ›

Guess any letter for any question. It doesn't matter if you guess A,B,A,B or A,A,A,A or any variation. Your expected number of correct answers are equal—actually, you'll actually do sliiightly better by guessing randomly on every question.

What is the best strategy for guessing multiple choice? ›

Guessing Strategies

Use the wording of the question or answer as a clue to eliminate possibilities. Choose the most precise answer. Avoid answers that seem out of context. Choose a numerical answer from the middle of the range, not from either extreme.

How many questions can you miss on the PSAT to get a perfect score? ›

In general, you can miss up to one question on each PSAT section and still earn a perfect score.

Does it count against you to guess on the PSAT? ›

The PSAT is divided into two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing. Because there is no penalty for guessing, a student's raw score for both of the main test areas is the number of questions answered correctly.

How do I ace my PSAT? ›

How Do I Get a High PSAT Score?
  1. Take a practice test.
  2. Figure out your kryptonite – your biggest weaknesses.
  3. Drill your weaknesses, review your strengths.
  4. Check in with more practice tests.

Is it OK if you don't answer all the questions on the PSAT? ›

Even though you have a 75% chance of picking the wrong answer, it won't cost you any points. On the PSAT, you will get zero points on a question if you do not answer it. It would help if you always guessed, even when you do not know what to do.

What happens if you don't do well on the PSAT? ›

Your acceptance or rejection into college is much more dependent on the SAT or ACT , so the short answer is “no,” colleges don't care at all about the PSAT. An abysmal score on the PSAT will not have any direct effect on your chances of getting into a college.

What are 3 benefits for taking the PSAT? ›

How You Can Win a National Merit Scholarship.
  • A High PSAT Score Can Lead to a National Merit Scholarship.
  • Your PSAT Score Can Indicate Future SAT Performance.
  • Doing Well on the PSAT Can Give You a Confidence Boost.
Nov 9, 2022

What is the most points on the PSAT? ›

Your overall PSAT score range is 320-1520. These scores are intended to predict your SAT score. For example, an 1100 on the PSAT means you'd probably get an 1100 on the SAT. But because the SAT is more challenging, it has a slightly different score range of 400-1600.

What PSAT score is National Merit 2023? ›

To state the obvious, some of the 50 U.S. states are obviously far more competitive than others—and colleges will keep this in mind during the admission process. The main qualification for National Merit is a high PSAT score (out of 1520).

What is the PSAT score for National Merit Scholarship? ›

The National Merit Scholarship Program uses a special PSAT score called the Selection Index to determine National Merit eligibility. The Selection Index ranges from 48-228 and is equal to the sum of your test scores for Math, Reading, and Writing and Language.

What is the lowest good PSAT score? ›

Best PSAT Scores
Sep 26, 2022

What's a good PSAT score for junior? ›

We can define a "good" PSAT score as one that's higher than the 75th percentile of the user group. This means you scored equal to or higher than 75% of all other test takers. For juniors, 75th percentile scores are around 560 to 590 in each section, or about 1150 in total.


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