By Sean Alexander
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Embarking on your PSAT journey? This PSAT Prep guide provides essential strategies and insights to conquer the PSAT/NMSQT. From exploring official practice tests, and engaging with resources like Khan Academy, to understanding the difference between the SAT and PSAT, this guide will help you prepare effectively. Whether you're looking for tips, study materials, or the best online courses, we have you covered. Let's ace the PSAT together!


Understanding the PSAT/NMSQT structure

The PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a standardized test that provides practice for the SAT and serves as a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship Program. It comprises two main sections:

  1. Reading and Writing Section: This section tests your literacy skills by asking multiple-choice questions that require you to read, comprehend, analyze, and revise texts.
  2. Math Section: This section is divided into two parts, one of which does not allow the use of calculators. It assesses your mathematical proficiency.

The test takes approximately 2 hours and 14 minutes to complete, with varying time allotments for each section. The scoring scale ranges from 320 to 1520, with each section individually scored from 160 to 760.

Importance of practice tests in PSAT preparation

Integrating practice tests into your PSAT preparation is key for several reasons. Firstly, they allow you to acquaint yourself with the PSAT/NMSQT's structure and question formats, enhancing your familiarity and comfort with the test. This can significantly reduce test anxiety on the actual exam day.

Secondly, practice tests serve as a valuable diagnostic tool. They help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in the tests' various sections, enabling you to focus your study efforts more effectively.

Lastly, consistent practice helps build endurance, a critical aspect since the PSAT is a lengthy exam. It also helps improve speed and accuracy, important factors considering the test's timed nature.

Bear in mind that for most benefits, it's crucial to use up-to-date, official practice tests like those provided by the College Board. These tests most accurately reflect the actual PSAT in terms of difficulty level and content.

Remember, the goal is not just to take practice tests but to learn from them by thoroughly reviewing your answers.

Utilizing Khan Academy and College Board resources

psat prep
To maximize your preparation, take advantage of resources offered by Khan Academy and College Board. By linking your Khan Academy account to your College Board account, you can leverage your PSAT, SAT, or other test results to receive personalized practice recommendations. This can help tailor your study plan to areas where you need improvement.

Resources include:

  • Bluebook™: A free, full-length practice test platform. You can download practice tests for additional preparation.
  • Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy: This provides personalized practice resources based on your PSAT performance. You can also practice other skills beyond those recommended.
  • Digital PSAT/NMSQT on Khan Academy: This mimics the digital SAT, use this alongside Khan Academy’s free official digital SAT test prep materials.

Remember, consistent practice and review are keys to understanding and mastering the test format and content.

Effective study guides and prep books

When it comes to effective study guides and prep books, there's a wide range of options available. Some popular choices, as per various search results, include the Barron’s PSAT Study Guide Premium and the Princeton Review PSAT/NMSQT Prep.

  • The Barron's guide offers in-depth content review, test-taking strategies, and practice exercises for each subject tested on the PSAT – Reading, Writing & Language, and Math.
  • The Princeton Review guide provides two practice tests, review material, and online tools.

Other notable options are Kaplan’s PSAT/NMSQT Prep, with its two full-length practice tests and over 1,000 practice exercises, and the Mometrix PSAT study guide, known for its concise and user-friendly layout.

Choosing a guide or prep book largely depends on your individual study needs and learning style. Consider factors such as the depth of content review, number of practice tests, and additional resources like online tools or video tutorials. Remember, a combination of resources can often provide a more comprehensive study experience.

Online classes vs. traditional courses for PSAT prep

When deciding between online classes and traditional courses for PSAT prep, it's essential to understand their respective advantages and the specific needs of the student.

Online classes, such as those offered by Alexander Tutoring, PrepScholar, Princeton Review, or Kaplan, are becoming increasingly popular due to their flexibility and accessibility. Most of these courses provide comprehensive study materials, practice tests, and personalized study plans. Some offer unique features like adaptive technology from Alexander Tutoring which customizes your study plan to your strengths and weaknesses.

On the other hand, traditional courses often provide structured learning environments and direct interaction with instructors. They may be advantageous for students who prefer face-to-face instruction and benefit from a more structured study schedule.

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing between these two options:

  • Flexibility: Online courses typically allow students to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule.
  • Interaction: Traditional courses often provide more opportunities for direct interaction with instructors and peers.
  • Learning style: Some students may find that they learn better in a traditional classroom setting, while others may thrive in the self-directed environment of an online course.
  • Cost: Online courses can often be more affordable than traditional courses, though this can vary widely.

Remember, the best course is the one that aligns with the student's learning style, schedule, and budget.

Tips and strategies for successful PSAT exam

To ace the PSAT, you need a well-rounded strategy. Here are some tips to guide you:

  • Understand the test's structure: Knowing the format of each section, the types of questions you'll encounter, and the timing can help you navigate the test more efficiently.
  • Use a study plan: Having a structured approach to studying can help you cover all the necessary content in a systematic way. This includes regular practice tests, review of concepts, and identifying areas of improvement.
  • Prioritize your time: Not all questions are created equal. Prioritize the ones you're confident about, and don't spend too much time on the ones you find challenging.
  • Stay healthy: Make sure you get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet, and engage in regular exercise. Good physical health can contribute significantly to your mental performance.
  • Keep a positive mindset: Stay optimistic and confident about your abilities. Remember, it's not just about how much you know, but also about how well you can apply what you've learned under exam conditions.

Remember to utilize all available resources, including online study materials, books, and tutors. It's also helpful to familiarize yourself with the test-taking environment to minimize any potential stress on the day of the exam.


  • Sean Alexander

    COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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