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Lucas Fink

4 Ways to Cram for the PSAT

If I was being totally honest, I’d say the title of this post is misleading. Kind of a lie, even—the PSAT includes so much material that it’s impossible to cram for.

But scrap that. I’m going to tell you what you want to hear, instead: it’s totally possible to cram for the PSAT.


I’ll even go a step further and tell you how, exactly, to do said cramming. And you know what? Even if I am full of it, if you do the things below, you’ll at the very least make sure your score is as high as it can be, which means giving yourself the most opportunity for scholarships and getting a head start on your SAT prep at the same time—the SAT and PSAT are extremely similar. Promises of perfect scores (or anything close) with just a week of studying may be nonsense, but the way you would study for those top scores does pay off, so it’s worth humoring me.

1. Practice Test(s)

Take one. Take two, if you can. Heck, why stop at the PSAT? Take a full-length SAT. It’s an hour and a half longer than the PSAT, sure, but that’s basically the same as putting weights on your bat when practicing your swing.

That’s not groundbreaking advice by itself, though. The important part (the part you might be tempted to skip, too) is reviewing the answers. Take the time to figure out what you did wrong, and how you can avoid it. Even if you’ve only got a few days, that’s enough time to learn from your mistakes.

2. Vocabulary

Who knows why the College Board ever thought it was appropriate to put words like “clandestine” and “truculent” on their tests, but they did. The good news is that learning vocab by rote memorization is pretty effective in the short term. That strategy alone kinda sucks for long-term growth, and if you want to really bring up your scores significantly, building your vocabulary more organically (by reading a ton) is a better choice, but if your test is in a week, it’s time to break out those vocabulary flashcards.

3. Know Your Grammar Rules

This is pretty much the same idea as memorizing vocabulary. Most high-school teachers don’t spend much time on grammar, which is a bit lame because A) it will affect everything you ever write (seriously) and B) standardized tests like the PSAT love grammar.

You don’t have to diagram sentences, but you do have to know the common errors. There’s a limited number of them, so it’s pretty manageable to just read up on them and come away with an improved test score—provided you do a bit of practice along the way.

4. Math formulas

I would never suggest that a student with ample time to study and practice instead memorize a bunch of formulas. Actually getting better at PSAT math means training and learning from mistakes (as I mentioned in #1, above). But if you’re running on a tight schedule, this is the fastest way to review what’s in the PSAT math sections.

So take this with a grain of salt, but here’s even more stuff to memorize. Pair this with at least one practice test, please! Just reading a bunch of formulas and not learning to apply them is pretty much useless.

The Takeaway

Before you take the test, make sure you know what’s on the PSAT. Then, review as much as you can in the time you have left and take at least one practice test. And with that done, you’ll be on your way to a perfect score!

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About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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