Preparing For PSAT Mathematics





Preparation Strategies/Tips for PSAT Math

The test includes two Critical Reading sections, two Math sections, and one Writing Skills section. This article describes how to prepare for the Math section. Your preparation should involve the topics listed in the Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT. You can download the guide from the College Board website: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/2011_Student_Guide.pdf

Subjects Involved

The break-up of questions in the Math section is as follows:

  • Algebra and Functions (35–40%)
  • Data Analysis, Statistics and Probability (10–15%)
  • Geometry and Measurement (25–30%)
  • Number and Operations (20–25%)

For detailed information, check with the College Board website: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/psat/prep/section/math.

How to Prepare for PSAT Math Sections

You must be fundamentally strong in order to tackle the Math questions. You do not need to remember every Math formulae because the basic geometric formulas will be included in the test booklet. The Math section comprises the following types of questions:

  • Multiple-Choice Questions: For multiple choice questions, you need to identify the type of question first, whether algebraic or geometric in nature. Then identify the concept to use to solve the question. Thereafter, solve each problem and select one answer from the five given choices. Your preparation must include strategies to use intelligent guesswork. It proves very useful in some situations, especially when there is a dearth of time or you are not sure of the answer. You can take the practice test in The Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT.
    An important aspect of answering questions in the Math section is that you must read all the answer choices carefully, rather than rushing through them.
    For more information about the multiple-choice type of questions in this section, see the following website: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/prep/multi/multi.html.

  • Student-Produced Response Questions (Grid-Ins): Student-produced response questions do not include any answer choices, unlike the multiple-choice questions. The answer sheet includes grids, wherein you need to enter your answer by marking oval grids. The questions might also have more than one correct answer. In addition, there are no deductions for incorrect answers. Make sure that you know about the gridding rules before taking the test. Convert all the mixed numbers to improper fractions before gridding your answer. This enables you to be careful while gridding your answer. For more information about the student-produced response type of questions, see the following website: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/prep/gridins/gridins.html.

About Calculators

This program encourages you to bring calculators to the test, even if you do not use it. Schools will not provide calculators. A scientific or graphing calculator is recommended. Although not recommended, any four-function calculator is permitted. Although calculators are permitted, you will rarely have a chance to use it. In fact, you can have a calculator beside you while attempting a practice test to check whether you really need a calculator. Make sure that you do not try to use a calculator for every small calculation; it is always faster to calculate in your mind or a scratch pad than using the calculator.

The primary aim of the Math section is to assess your ability to use Math concepts in new situations. Thus, the questions are mostly application-oriented, which will highlight your knowledge about the subject. Remember that you do not have to answer every question in the booklet in order to do well in the test. However, your preparation must be done well so that you are confident of scoring above-average scores in the Math section.