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Approaches & Strategies

Tips for taking the PSAT/NMSQT

Although the best preparation for the PSAT/NMSQT is long term—such as taking solid academic courses and reading widely—students will perform better on the test if they know what to expect on test day.

Short-term approaches and strategies

Encourage your students to follow these approaches and strategies:

  • Take the practice test in The Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT.
  • Learn the directions for each type of math and critical reading question.
  • Try sample questions from past tests.
  • Earn as many points as they can on easy questions.
  • Read all the answer choices before marking their answer sheets.
  • Do their scratchwork in the test book.
  • Skip test questions—they don't have to answer every question to do well.
  • Work steadily without wasting time on hard questions—they can always go back to them later.
  • Check their answer sheets regularly to make sure they're in the right place.
  • Write answers to grid-ins in the boxes above the ovals.
  • Try educated guessing when they can eliminate at least one answer to a multiple-choice question.
  • Take a calculator on test day.

About guessing

Educated guessing means guessing an answer whenever one or more of the choices can be eliminated as definitely wrong. Encourage students to use educated guessing.

Because ¼ of a point is deducted for a wrong answer to multiple-choice questions, random guessing is not recommended. Advise students to leave that question blank and move on to the next one.

Students can earn an above-average score by getting only half the questions right and omitting answers for the rest of the questions.

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