PSAT Prep - A Comprehensive Guide

If you are planning to appear for the SAT, it is always better to appear for the PSAT first so that you are able to identify your academic strengths and weaknesses and, more importantly, apply for scholarships. The PSAT is an important step towards funding your college education and thus you need to ensure that you are well prepared to tackle the test.

Many PSAT prep companies offer courses on preparing for the PSAT. It is in your interest to find a good source to help you prepare for the test. A few PSAT prep courses are listed below.

The Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT

The first important PSAT prep is The Official Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT. The “Prepare for the Test” section includes comprehensive information about the PSAT test. Each section that is tested in the PSAT is lucidly explained with sample questions. The guide also includes an explanation about approaching the question. For example, “to answer a sentence completion question, you need to understand how the parts of the sentence relate to one another.” The Math section includes the breakup of the types of questions. For example, algebra and functions form 35-40% of the Math section. It also explains how to answer grid-ins. The guide can be accessed at:


Brightstorm offers classroom and online PSAT prep courses. Apart from the subject information, it provides information about the PSAT and National Merit Scholarship Program. The Brightstorm site provides information about PSAT tips and strategies for each section, such as avoiding long answer choices in the Writing skills section, or building vocabulary for the Critical Reading section.

Brightstorm tells you about the five top things to study for the PSAT, that is, Arithmetic, Algebra I or Geometry, Vocabulary, Pronouns. Although these are identified as the top areas, it is best to prepare holistically for the test.

In addition to the advice in individual sections, it advises about things to avoid just before the test day, such as trying to cram the night before the test, what not to take to the test center, and so on.

Brightstorm can be accessed at:

Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan offers a range of PSAT prep courses: classroom, online, private tutoring. The courses allow you to take personalized courses or study in groups. The online medium is helpful because you can access the course from any location. Kaplan also advises about creating college applications and planning for your college course. Some Kaplan courses begin with a diagnostic test to assess your capabilities in each subject. Based on the scores, you can avail customized courses tailored to your needs. Kaplan courses allow you to track your progress through their reports based on which you can focus your efforts where they are required.

Kaplan can be accessed at:

PSAT Prep Books

There are many PSAT prep books available to help you prepare for the test. Test prep companies, such as Kaplan and Princeton, publish some of these books. The advantage of this is that even though you do not enrol for their courses, you have their material accessible to you. Barron's How to Prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT is another popular PSAT prep book. The book includes study material on each section and includes full-length diagnostic test in addition to ten other practice tests. Gruber's Complete PSAT/NMSQT Guide 2012 is another favourite amongst students preparing for PSAT.

Although you can take the help of PSAT prep courses, you need to ensure that you spend time studying alone to understand and absorb concepts better. The PSAT is primarily about achieving scholarships. Therefore, you need to start your preparation early, usually in the first year of high school. This allows you enough time to plan your applications for the PSAT/NMSQT, identify scholarship programs, identify colleges, and prepare for the SAT.

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