Wanna know how to do well on the PSAT and SAT? Getting a good PSAT score can actually get you awards or scholarships down the line, and a good SAT score looks attractive to your top colleges. I learned some tricks that helped me score so high on the College Board’s tests that I got a National Merit Letter of Commendation at our last honors assembly (ooh, fancy). Here’s how.
There are 3 things you should practice before you take the test: understanding of test material, stress management, and time management.
Test knowledge is what you’d probably need the most time to prepare. I heavily recommend starting your prep at least 2 weeks before your test and studying in short bursts, 15 minutes max, each day. Hour-long cramming by yourself is not a good idea: you will get bored and your brain will get too tired to remember any information!
However, I do really like practice tests and tutoring sessions. Those will take a longer amount of time, but they help you train skills you’d use on your actual test.
You can find practice PSATs and SATs online or by buying a practice book. Ask a teacher if you can schedule a tutoring session for a subject you want practice with, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to help.
Stress management can be practiced at any time, but it’s really important to be mentally ready right before the test. You wanna know how to keep cool in the high-pressure situation that an important, time-limited test causes. If you are concerned about test anxiety, find a therapist/counselor to work through and prepare yourself mentally. Finding exercises and ways to deal with anxiety in a healthy manner is essential to perform to your best potential on exams like the SAT.
Getting your studying out of the way early already helps lower your stress and gives you time to do something relaxing the night before, like treating yourself to a nice bath or jog or watch an episode of your favorite TV series. Sleeping well and waking up early lets you take your time that morning instead of having to rush to the test site.
Time management is what you need to do during the actual test. You can train this by trying those practice tests I mentioned earlier. Try some of these tricks out during your practice, and they might be able to save you valuable time during your PSAT or SAT.
Be very flexible with skipping questions if you start to get stuck. Even if it seems like you passed over a quarter of the section, if you saved enough time by doing this you can go back and spend more time on the ones you struggled with.
On the reading section, skip the passage and go straight to the questions. Look for either the line they give you or some keywords related to the question, and then go back to the passage for what you need. Save questions about the general idea of the passage last, after you’ve gotten a feel for the text from the other questions you answered.
On the writing and language section, just find the first grammatically correct option on the grammar questions and that’s your answer! When they ask you about appropriate word choice, read the section around the lines they’re talking about and find key words or phrases that match up with an answer (you’re looking for something that fits the author’s intention or “flow”).
On the math section, find an approximate answer and then guess an answer that’s around what you have. If you’re stuck, plugging in the answers they give you can help you think through some of them.
On the calculator section, you can actually do a bunch of this math by hand. Start doing it like the other math section, and then pull out your calculator when you find something that will take you too much time to do on paper.
Finally, don’t regret anything after you walk out of that building! How smart you were at a specific time and place does not accurately predict how well you will do in college, and it isn’t a good measure of you as a human being. Hang out with some friends after or give yourself a “me day.” You earned it.