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MASTERING THE PSAT/NMSQT
THE BEST TEST PREP AND TestWare®
Your Total PSAT/NMSQT Solution gives you everything you need to master the PSAT/
NMSQT, get an excellent score, and move closer to your goal of getting into the college of your
Written by test-prep experts, this book will refresh your subject knowledge, boost your
test-taking skills, and test what you’ve learned. REA’s all-in-one prep package includes our exclusive TestWare® software and bonus online practice questions, along with a handy PSAT/NMSQT Vocabulary iPhone app that makes it a cinch to improve your command of must-know words.
Our comprehensive, yet concise review covers the entire PSAT/NMSQT. We provide
test-taking tips and preparation techniques you can use on this testand on other standardized
A diagnostic test helps you become comfortable with the format of the PSAT/NMSQT
and shows you the types of questions you’ll encounter on test day.
The full-length practice exams replicate the PSAT/NMSQT question format and level of
difficulty. The timed exams on our TestWare® CD offer powerful scoring analysis and diagnostic
feedback, to help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses.
Each practice test answer is explained in detail. If you answered a question wrong, we’ll
show you why. We don’t just say which answer is correct, we explain why the other answer
choices are incorrect.
Bonus PSAT/NMSQT Study Materials! Visit www.rea.com/YourTotalPSATSolution
and enter REA’s online world of exclusive test prep resources:
Additional Practice Questionsboost your math, reading, and essay-writing skills!
Exclusive PSAT/NMSQT Vocabulary iPhone Apphundreds of must-know PSAT/
NMSQT words you can study anywhere!
ABOUT THE TEST
Who Takes the Test and What Is It Used for?
The PSAT/NMSQT is nearly always taken by high school sophomores and juniors for three
(1) It is good practice for the SAT.
(2) Taking the PSAT/NMSQT allows you to compete for scholarships offered through the
National Merit Scholarship Corporation and other programs. National Merit Scholarships
are given to outstanding college-bound students. Qualifying criteria include performance
on the PSAT/NMSQT. Top scorers on the PSAT/NMSQT in each state become semi-finalists and compete for college scholarships. It goes without saying that scholarships can make your college expenses (and thus your college life) much easier to bear.
(3) You also get to participate in the Student Search Service. Nearly 1.5 million students
take the PSAT/NMSQT each year. This means there is a great deal of competition
for scholarship money and the opportunity to be considered by colleges. The Student
Search Service is a program that matches your academic background and interests to
appropriate colleges and scholarship services. Once your data is processed, you will receive
information from the schools and scholarship services you have chosen.
How Important Are My PSAT/NMSQT Scores?
Always keep in mind that if you don’t do well on the PSAT/NMSQT, you can probably take
the test again. This is easiest to do if you are a sophomore. The PSAT/NMSQT is not a requirement
for entering college, so if you do not score well, it in no way means you will not get into
college. A poor score also is not an absolute indicator that you will not do well on the SAT. Colleges
you apply to need never know your PSAT/NMSQT scores. And don’t let your score on the
PSAT/NMSQT change your plans about attending college. Remember, after all, that the PSAT/
NMSQT is still a preliminary test.
Who Administers the Test?
Educational Testing Service (ETS), which is under contract to the College Board, develops
and administers the PSAT/NMSQT. The process involves the assistance of ETS-approved educators
throughout the country. Test development is designed and implemented to ensure that the
content and difficulty level of the test are appropriate.
When Should the PSAT/NMSQT Be Taken?
You should take the PSAT/NMSQT optimally during your sophomore year of high school.
You can also take it in your junior year.
Why Should I Take the PSAT/NMSQT?
Taking the PSAT/NMSQT helps familiarizes you with the types of questions and format of
the actual SAT. If you are thinking of attending college, you should take the PSAT/NMSQT because
it will give you practice for the SAT, provide an opportunity to obtain scholarships to help
pay for college, and give colleges a chance to see your potential for success as a college student.
The test provides you with the opportunity to register for scholarship competition as well as
entering you in the Student Search Service. You will also get in some good practice for the SAT.
When and Where Is the Test Given?
The PSAT/NMSQT is administered once a year in October at many locations, including high
schools, throughout the United States. A school may choose one of two days on which to administer
To receive information on upcoming administrations of the PSAT/NMSQT, consult the
PSAT/NMSQT Student Bulletin, which can be obtained from your guidance counselor or by contacting:
P.O. Box 6720
Princeton, NJ 08541-6720
Telephone: (609) 771-7070
National Merit Scholarship Corp.
1560 Sherman Ave., Suite 200
Evanston, IL 60201-4897
Telephone: (847) 866-5100
Is there a Registration Fee?
You must pay a PSAT/NMSQT registration fee. Financial assistance is granted in certain
situations. Contact your academic advisor for more information on financial assistance.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
What Should I Study First?
Remember that the PSAT/NMSQT tests knowledge acquired throughout your education.
Taking the sample exams in this book will familiarize you with the types of questions, directions,
and format of the actual exam. Our diagnostic and practice exams will also help you establish a
good sense of timing for which to pace yourself when practicing each section.
The best place to start is with the subject reviews. Note the suggestions for test-taking, and
then take the Diagnostic Test, which will pinpoint your weak areas. Go back and focus on those
problem areas. The reviews include information you need to know for the exam. Make sure to
follow up your diagnostic work by taking the practice exam, which will expose you to the format
and procedures of the actual PSAT/NMSQT. One final point: Brushing up on areas you did well on is a great way to stay on top of a subject and build confidence for test day.
I Started Too Late. What Do I Do Now?
You know that last-minute studying and cramming the night before is not the best way to
prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT but for whatever reason, you’re just starting now and the test
is right around the corner. Maybe you simply forgot . . . maybe you just procrastinate when it
comes to these things. This book can still help you pass.
You won’t master the PSAT this way but you may still get a good enough score. First, take
the diagnostic test to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. Review the areas where you show
weakness. If you have time after this, also review those areas you are strong in. Review the test-taking
tips in this chapter and then take a practice exam. Grade yourself and see where you did
well and where you did poorly. Review your weak areas again. Then take another practice exam.
Repeat if time permits. With skill and effort (and a little luck), this crash course may help. We
find this last method to be the least desirable, but we realize that not everyone can give themselves
enough time to do it the right way. Of course, if you score poorly, you can always register
for the next exam. Just remember to plan and do that one right.
SECTIONS OF THE PSAT/NMSQT
Critical Reading Sections
There are two separate critical reading sections on the PSAT/NMSQT which contain a mix
of two different question types: Sentence Completion and Critical Reading.
Sentence Completion: A sentence is given with one or two words omitted. You choose
the word or words that best complete the sentence.
Critical Reading: There are 57 reading passages on the PSAT/NMSQT, including one
double passage consisting of two re lated selections. The questions test your critical reading
skillsthat is, how well you analyze material rather than simply recall factual information.
Section 1: 7 Sentence Completion questions
(25 minutes) 34 reading passages with 18 Critical Reading questions
Section 3: 6 Sentence Completion questions
(25 minutes) 23 reading passages with 17 Critical Reading questions
You will encounter four different types of math questions on the PSAT/NMSQT; they will
test your skills in numbers and operation; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; and
data analysis, statistics, and probability.
Regular Math: These are questions of the usual multiple-choice format which will ask
you to perform basic mathematics.
Student-Produced Response (Grid-In): These questions require you to solve a problem
and enter the solution into a grid, instead of choosing the correct answer from among
the provided answer choices.
The 38 math questions may be arranged as follows:
Section 2: 20 Regular Math questions
Section 4: 10 Student-Produced Response questions
(25 minutes) 8 Regular Math questions
Writing Skills Section
There are three different types of Writing Skills questions on the PSAT/NMSQT: Identifying
Sentence Errors, Improving Sentences, and Improving Paragraphs.
Identifying Sentence Errors: These questions test your ability to find errors of structure and
usage in sentences. Several words and phrases in the sentence will be underlined; you must
choose the incorrect word or phrase or, if the sentence is correct as is, choose “No error.”
Improving Sentences: These questions ask you to revise the part of a sentence that is underlined.
The question gives you five choicesanswer (A) is the same as the underlined part, which
is to say the sentence needs no revision. Choices (BE) are alternate phrasings of the underlined
section. You should choose the phrase that most clearly communicates the original idea of the
Improving Paragraphs: Some of these questions are essentially the same as the Sentence Improvement
questions except that they ask you to ensure that the revised sentence makes sense in
the context of the entire passage. Some questions ask you about the structure and meaning of the
reading as a whole.
The breakdown of the 39 writing skills questions is as follows:
Section 5: 14 Error Identification questions
(30 minutes) 20 Sentence Improvement questions
5 Paragraph Improvement questions
ABOUT THE REVIEW SECTIONS
The reviews in this book not only teach you the skills needed to approach PSAT/NMSQT
questions, but also provide strategies for attack ing each type of question. We also provide drills
to help reinforce what you learn. By using the reviews in conjunction with the practice exams,
you will sharpen your test-taking skills for the PSAT/NMSQT.
In the Basic Verbal Skills Review, you will find advice for refining your verbal skills, as well
as an extensive vocabulary enhancer containing a list of words commonly found on the PSAT/
NMSQT. There are also separate reviews for both types of critical reading questions: Sentence
Completions and Critical Reading. In these reviews, the types of questions you will encounter on
the PSAT/NMSQT will be presented, along with step-by-step strategies for answering them.
The Basic Math Skills Review will help to reinforce the arithmetic, algebra, and geometry
concepts you need to know in order to succeed on the PSAT/NMSQT. Included are drills with
questions that will help rein force these skills. Next, you will find separate reviews for Regular
Math and Student-Produced Response questions. These reviews will present every possible question
type that you will find on the math test, and will also provide step-by-step strategies and tips
for solving the problems.
Writing Skills Review
The Writing Skills review will hone your English Language skills. It reviews and drills many
grammar points that you will find useful for the writing skills questions on the exam.
SCORING THE PSAT/NMSQT
How Do I Score My Practice Exam?
Critical Reading Sections
Count the number of correct responses in the critical reading sections (Section 1 and Section
3). Next, count up the number of incorrect responses. Enter these numbers into the corresponding
blanks on the provided scoring worksheet. Next, multiply the number of incorrect answers
by one-fourth (this is the penalty for answering incorrectly). Subtract this product from the total
number of correct answers. Fractions should be rounded off: round up for one-half or more and
round down for less than one-half. Add the subtotals for Sections 1 and 3 together; this will yield
your total num ber of points for the verbal section.
Count the number of correct responses in the math sections (Section 2 and Section 4). Count
up the number of incorrect responses for the regular math questions (Section 2 and Section 4,
Nos. 1118). Enter this number in the worksheet, multiply by one-fourth, and subtract the product
from the total number of correct answers in that section. You do not need to count the number
of incorrect answers for the Student-Produced questions (Section 4, Nos. 110) because there
is no penalty for incor rect answers to this question type. Once again, fractions should be rounded
off. Add all of the subtotals together to yield thetotal of mathematics points.
Writing Skills Section
Count the number of correct responses in the writing section. Next, count the number of
incorrect responses. Enter these numbers into the corresponding blanks on the provided scoring
worksheet. Then multiply the number of incorrect answers by one fourth and subtract this product
from the total number of correct answers. If the number is a fraction, round it offthis is
your number of points for the writing section.
STUDYING FOR THE PSAT/NMSQT
It is critical for you to choose the time and place for studying that work best for you. Some students
may set aside a certain number of hours every morning to study, while others may choose to study at
night before going to sleep. Other students may study during the day, on the bus, waiting on a line, or
even while eating lunch. Only you can determine when and where your study time will be most effective. But be consistent and use your time wisely. Work out a study routine and stick to it!
When you take the practice exams, try to make your testing conditions as much like the actual
test as possible. Turn your television and radio off. Sit down at a quiet table that is free from
noises and distractions.
After completing the practice exam, score your test and thoroughly review the answer explanations
for questions you answered incorrectly. Do not review too much at any one time.
Concentrate on one problem area at a time by reviewing the questions and explanations, and by
studying our review until you are confident you completely understand the material.
Keep track of your scores and mark them on the Scoring Worksheet. By doing so, you will
be able to gauge your progress and discover any outstanding weaknesses in particular sections.
You should carefully study the reviews in your areas of difficulty.
PSAT/NMSQT TEST-TAKING TIPS
Although you may be unfamiliar with standardized tests such as the PSAT/NMSQT, there
are many ways to acquaint yourself with this type of examination. Remember, familiarization by
itself is a great way to alleviate test-taking anxieties. Here are some ways to help you become accustomed to the PSAT/NMSQT:
Become comfortable with the overall format and flow of the PSAT/NMSQT. When you
are practicing to take the PSAT/NMSQT, simulate the conditions under which you will be taking
the actual test. Stay calm and pace yourself. After simulating the test only a couple of times,
you will boost your chances of doing well, and you will be able to sit down for the actual PSAT/
NMSQT much more confidently.
Know the directions and format for each section of the test. Familiarizing yourself with
the directions and format of the different test sections will not only save you time, but will also
ensure that you are familiar enough with the PSAT/NMSQT to avoid nervousness (and the mistakes
caused by being nervous).
Work on easier questions first. If you find yourself working too long on one question,
make a mark next to it in your test booklet and continue. After you have answered all of the
questions that you can, go back to the ones you have skipped.
If you are unsure of an answer, guess. But if you do guess, guess wisely. Use the process
of elimination by going through each answer to a question and eliminating as many of the answer
choices as possible. By eliminating three answer choices, you give yourself a fifty-fifty chance of
getting the item correct since there will only be two choices left from which to make your guess.
Be sure that you are making your answer in the oval that corresponds to the number of
the question in the test booklet. Since your test is graded by machine, marking one answer in the
wrong space will throw off the rest of your test. Do your scratch work in the test booklet only.
Read all of the possible answers. Just because you think you have found the correct response,
do not automatically assume that it is the best answer. You should read through each choice before marking your answer on the sheet to be sure that you are not making a mistake by
jumping to conclusions.
You don’t have to answer every question. You are not penalized if you do not answer every
question. The only penalty you receive is if you answer a question incorrectly. Try to use the
guessing strategy, but if you are truly stumped by a question, do not answer it.
Work quickly and steadily. You will have only twenty-five minutes to work on each verbal
and math section and only thirty minutes for the writing skills questions, so you will need to
work as quickly as possible and work steadily to avoid focusing on one problem too long. Taking
the practice exams in this book will help you to budget your precious time.
SSD Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Many students qualify for extra time to take the PSAT/NMSQT, and our
TestWare® can be adapted to accommodate your time extension. This allows
you to practice under the same extended time accommodations that you will
receive on the actual test day. To customize your TestWare® to suit the most
common extensions, visit our website at www.rea.com/ssd.