The PSAT: How to Get a Better Score

In my last post I shared a lot of information about the PSAT and why you need to take it seriously. Now I’m going to share just a little bit about how you can improve your score.

Did you know that each question on the PSAT is designed to be answered in less than a minute? In fact, the PSAT is a type of time management test.  You need to answer questions quickly and efficiently and doing that depends on your ability to quickly tell what the question is asking.

The test is logic based not content based. The questions are designed to trick you. They want to see if you can think and read critically.  I think the one of the best ways to show you what I mean is to show you some examples.

Here’s your first question:

How many different integers n will make the following statement true?

6 < 4n <10

a. 1

b. 2

c. 3

d. 4

e. 5

Know the answer?

Easy, right? We all know that n=2.

4×2 = 8 and of course 6 < 8 <10 is accurate.  So the answer is b right? Wrong! The correct answer is a. Reread what the question is actually asking. It didn’t ask which of those answers is the right answer. It basically asked how many right answers are there.  Very tricky.

Okay let’s do another one: (Remember you need to answer this in about 30 seconds.)

What is the product of 587,392 and 26,453?

a. 14,107,987,535

b. 14,880,123,640

c. 15,538,280,576

d. 15,942,223,113

e. 16,006,975,391

So what did you get in 30 seconds? I doubt you had time to work it all out with a pencil and scrap paper in that amount of time.

So what’s the trick? Look closely.

What is the product of 587,392 and 26,453?

Well, instead of doing this rather lengthy multiplication problem in its entirety just multiply the last digit in each of the numbers: 2 and 3.

2×3 = 6. So right off the bat you know that the answer has to end with a 6. The only one that does is c. Therefore c is the right answer.

Are you starting to see what type of skills they are measuring now? It’s all about critical thinking not content.

Last one:

Like all new animals, the zoo’s new surroundings baffled the panda bear during his first visit.

a. the zoo’s new surroundings baffled the panda bear

b. the new zoo surroundings baffling the panda bear

c. the panda bear was baffled by the zoo’s new surroundings

d. the panda bear, who found the zoo’s new surroundings baffling

e. the new surroundings in the zoo which baffles the panda bear

This one is a little less tricky, but takes a lot of time to read. Remember you only have about 30 seconds to answer and it will take at least that amount of time to read each of the answers and make a decision.

So what’s the trick here?

Like all new animals, the zoo’s new surroundings baffled the panda bear during his first visit.

Look at the subject before the underlined section: animals. The correct answer must start with the animal: the panda bear. You’ve just eliminated a, b, and e. Now only read c and d and choose the one that is the most clear and concise.  The answer is c.

Now that you have a better idea of how the test is formatted and how it really is designed to trick you, you will be more prepared going in.  Use the official PSAT/NMSQT study guide to get yourself ready.PSAT

Okay, that’s all I’ll share about the PSAT for a while. If you have any additional questions please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.


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