Why the PSAT

Why should you take the PSAT?

The SAT and the ACT are the college entrance tests. While the ACT is a recent entrant as a test for non-American students, the SAT has long ruled the roost. Indeed, worldwide, including the USA, students are appearing for both the SAT and the ACT to maximise their chances to get into a school of their choice.

The PSAT helps the students who wish to appear for the SAT. It will give students a chance to equip themselves with the test taking strategies that will help them score well in the SAT.

While the SAT is a 3 hours 45 minutes long test, the PSAT is a shorter test with a duration of just 2 hours and 35 minutes. However, many of the concepts and skills tested are the same as the ones that the SAT tests. Indeed, a perusal of the comparative table will show that PSAT sections are as demanding as those of the SAT.

Both the tests are administered by the same organisation, the College Board, and will help one gauge one’s performance and predict the amount of effort that would be needed for the SAT. This means that preparing for the PSAT is actually part of the preparation for the SAT.

The Mathematical concepts in the PSAT are a level lower than those tested in the SAT as the students would not yet have been exposed to these concepts. However, most of the syllabus is the same. 

The Critical Reading sections are considered to be the toughest sections by most students appearing for the SAT. The level of vocabulary, the types of passages and the speed in test taking in the CR sections of the PSAT are the same as the two 25 minute sections of the SAT.

The Writing section in the SAT and in the PSAT test the same skills and concepts. Speed is of essence in both as the number of questions exceed the duration of the section. The SAT is marginally more stringent than the PSAT with 35 questions to be attempted in 25 minutes as opposed to the PSAT with 39 questions in 30 minutes. However, the types of questions and the syntax and semantics tested are the same in both the tests.

Should you train for the SAT if you have done well in the PSAT?

The answer to this question is YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The SAT is a different ballgame altogether.

Remember that while students are accustomed to sitting for 2-3 hours for an exam, 3 hours 45 minutes is a long stretch. Just the physical act of sitting in one place for so long, leave alone focussing intensely on such a skill based test requires a lot of practice. Moreover, the PSAT does not determine one’s entry to one’s choice college. The SAT does. The pressure of that is all the more draining and the more one trains for such a test, the better one does.

A key difference in the SAT and the PSAT is the Essay component in the Writing Section of the SAT. The essay is a challenge for many students and for most Asian students the skills they have been taught in school for composition is very different from the skills they have to master to do well in the SAT. The topics themselves require a lot of reorientation and involve higher cognitive skills. The SAT essay is worth about 30% of the overall writing score. That is how important the essay is.

The Mathematical concepts that are not covered in the PSAT must be mastered for the SAT and though they are higher level concepts, the students still have to complete an equal number of questions within the same time frame as in the PSAT.

The Critical Reading section requires high levels of concentration. The vocabulary range needs to be expanded and the reading skills, especially one’s speed, needs to be honed a sharp edge. Only practice and constant feedback from a tutor will keep the momentum going.

Many students state that their energy levels dip after the 6th section of the SAT. Since the SAT scoring curve is quite harsh, wherein 1 mistake in Mathematics or Writing can bring your score down to a 780 or even a 760 instead of a perfect 800, training is not merely recommended; it is mandatory. 

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