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College Entrance Examinations - The PSAT What?

Nov 7, 2007
Starting in high school the counselors, teachers and parents all start using acronyms. Now life is difficult enough and now everyone is throwing all these initials around expecting you to not only know what they mean, but to score well on them. Well never, fear, there are many college bound students in the same boat as you that are wondering what the heck a PSAT really is. Seriously, you should know what these initials are by now, but you still may not have a good grasp on what it really involves. This article will serve as a guideline and help you better understand this test that you are headed toward.

PSAT or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test

The PSAT is kind of a practice test that helps students determine their placement and how much preparation they need before they take on the SAT. This can give you a good idea of how the questions are worded, what is expected and if the test is easy or difficult for you. Some students make the mistake of believing that because they aced the PSAT that the SAT will be the same and never even study. That is not advisable and it may be that you got lucky with the PSAT. So always, make sure that you prepare before any exam, unless you just have money and early mornings to blow!

The PSAT is made up of two reading sessions, two math sessions and one writing session. The questions are multiple choice or guess, as many prefer to say except for the writing portion of the test. The allotted time for the test is a little over two hours, but not everyone takes that long and others need the entire time. Two hours is not the maximum given, but only a guideline.

The reading sessions are approximately twenty-five minutes apiece and involves critical reading, vocabulary as well as determining the relationship between words. The most important part of the reading section of the PSAT is to ensure that you read the sections carefully. There are fifty questions in the reading section so it is important to adhere to a time schedule. Hurrying through this part of the exam will lower your score, because there might be a trick or two! Pace yourself to ensure that you are not carelessly answering the questions, but that you are not taking too much time either. Those taking the PSAT today will not have those all famous analogies to look forward to as they have been eliminated, darned of luck!

The math sessions are approximately twenty-five minutes apiece and consist of word problems, algebra, graphs, geometry and statistics. The match section consists of thirty multiple-choice questions and ten grid questions. Performance on the math section can be enhanced greatly with practicing and brushing up on math skills with a good PSAT preparation guide.

The writing section of the PSAT involves a thirty-minute allotment where the test taker is expected to answer questions based on a given writing sample. The student will answer multiple choice questions based on finding mistakes, poor sentence structure and other grammatical errors. The best way to prepare for the writing section of the PSAT is to practice with the given exercises in the PSAT study guide. There are thirty-nine questions that must be answered in thirty minutes in the writing section. Warning: many first time students fail the writing portion of the exam because they blow this section off.

A perfect score on the PSAT is eighty and the lowest is a twenty. Most students that are still in high school that take the exam score about a fifty. This could be greatly improved if the students made use of reference material. The mind gets better with practice and certainly over time, so it is imperative to study for the PSAT and SAT. On the Internet you will see a ton or study guides, courses and tapes that will raise your score. Many of these products will, but you need to make sure that you are getting a proven product. So, how do you know if it is proven or not. Look at the testimonials of other students, if there are no testimonials, avoid making the purchase. If others have benefited from the product than it is safe to assume that you can do the same.

Most high schools begin trying to get their junior and senior classes to take the PSAT. This is a great time to take the test to begin preparing in the areas that you need help in or scored poorly. If you start preparing early you can eliminate some of the stress and possibly even get more of an opportunity for financial aid and/or scholarship money. The quicker you have the SAT results the more likely you are to be granted money, that you don't have to pay back. So, do not wait or put off taking the PSAT, consider it a practice and preparation for the SAT.

There are also several practice tests on the Internet, but are not all that you will need to prepare for the PSAT or SAT. Granted the free practice tests can give you an idea of the test type questions, but it is not a good preparation strategy. Do not fall into the "cannot afford it trap", find a way because the test is not cheap and you do not want to waste the money failing the test!
About the Author
Gene Grzywacz teaches study skills and test taking to serious students. View other college tips by Gene.
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