Help! The PSAT is Right Around the Corner!

At this point, junior year is in full swing, and you now understand what all your upperclassmen friends have been warning you about. You’ve likely got a test or paper under your belt in each of your classes and are in the process of finding the balance of managing a heavier workload and more responsibility in your extracurriculars. And now you realize that the PSAT is coming up rapidly. Oh, great. Here comes the College Board to put its big, fat, number two pencil-stained thumb on the scale and throw everything out of whack again. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way if you keep the PSAT in perspective. Here are a few things to think about as you prepare to run the first of the gauntlet of standardized tests coming at you this year.

DO take it seriously.

Yes, the “P” stands for preliminary, but that doesn’t mean you should blow off this test. Get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, bring your College Board-approved calculator, pace yourself during the test, and don’t give up if you get fatigued or frustrated.

There are several reasons you should give the PSAT your best shot, even if you don’t intend to compete for a National Merit scholarship.

But DON’T take it too seriously.

That’s right. The PSAT doesn’t really “count” for anything. Sure, it’s the qualifying test for a National Merit Scholarship, but that — by design — affects less than 1% of test-takers. Colleges never see your PSAT scores. You can’t send them even if you try. So the last thing you should do is bomb a test in a class because you were busy preparing for or worrying about the PSAT. That’s not a good trade. You should be thoughtful when you sit down to take the PSAT, but it shouldn’t be too stressful. It’s just not that important in the overall scheme of things.

And some tips from your friendly, neighborhood SAT tutor.

All that being said, if you’ve got some time to kill one night and want to set yourself up to succeed on the PSAT, that’s great. You might already have a practice test that you got in school. Check that out. If you’ve lost it, don’t worry, you can download some more on the College Board website. Working through a practice test beforehand will help ensure that your scores say more about your abilities and less about your unfamiliarity with the test. As you do so, consider these big-picture strategies:

Best of luck to you on the upcoming PSAT. Stay cool, make good decisions, and start out your standardized testing year on the right foot!