Problem #1: You want to do well on the PSAT, but don't have enough time to study. We get it. Everything you need to achieve your goals on the PSAT is in this book. No long-winded lessons. Just what you need to score higher.
Problem #2: Studying for the PSAT is boring. No kidding. Studying for the PSAT is never going to be a lot of laughs. But the payoff is huge -- and the tools in this book create a straightforward path to your goal.
Problem #3: Everyone has an opinion about how you should study for the PSAT. You probably have a pretty good idea of where you need help. If you already know what you need, jump right in. If not, we can help you create a personalized study plan.
You don't have to put your real life on hold while you prepare for your future.
Why Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions?
When you want advice, you probably ask your friends. Or parents. Or teachers. And each of them can probably give you some good advice about taking the PSAT. So why do you need Kaplan? Because your friends, parents, and teachers probably haven't invested millions of dollars developing realistic practice exams and test-taking strategies. Kaplan has. And when a test changes, we're prepared with the most up-to-date materials.
When it comes to the PSAT, your friends know what works for them, but do they know what works for you? Kaplan has helped millions of students -- all kinds of students, from perfect-score seekers to students who run screaming from algebra problems -- reach their individual goals. More than 65 years of test preparation experience -- it's all in this book.
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Read an Excerpt
Kaplan New PSAT
KaplanCopyright © 2004 Kaplan
All right reserved.
Chapter One: Be the PSAT
Chapter One Overview
Chapter one of the Kaplan PSAT Program is an overview of the PSAT and Kaplan's strategies for doing your absolute best on the exam. The following chapters on Critical Reading, Math, and Writing build upon the materials in this chapter, so read chapter one slowly and methodically. Be sure you understand the information it presents before you move on to chapters two-four.
If you don't have much time to prep for the PSAT, spend what time you do have reading this chapter. It covers the basic information on the PSAT and Kaplan's overall strategies for approaching the test -- the fundamentals you need to be ready for the exam and to feel confident about improving your score.
Like we said, the PSAT can only help. A good PSAT score could earn you a nice scholarship, making your college experience a little cheaper and a lot more fun. Furthermore, by prepping for the PSAT, you are familiarizing yourself with the same kinds of questions the SAT uses.
Where and When to Take the PSAT
The PSAT is offered once a year every mid-October. It is administered at your high school, not at a testing center. Home-schooled students can sign up at the nearest local high school. Most high schools administer the exam on a Saturday; someoffer it on Tuesday.
Some high schools recommend that their students take the test for additional practice as sophomores. Sophomores who take the PSAT are not eligible to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship unless they are in an accelerated program and are preparing to graduate the following year. However, some schools will administer the test to their students only once, in the beginning of their junior year; thus, students wanting to take it as sophomores would have to get permission from their guidance counselors.
Why Take the PSAT
The PSAT/NMSQT stands for the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It has two main functions.
The first is to give you practice for the SAT. Although shorter than the SAT (2 hours 10 minutes compared to 3 hours 45 minutes), it contains the same types of math, reading, and writing questions, except for a written essay, as those found on the SAT. It also measures your score against your classmates across the country, just like the SAT does.
Taking the PSAT also gives you a chance to qualify for several scholarship programs, most notably the National Merit Scholarship Program. Aside from the possibility of receiving tuition for college, recognition by the National Merit Scholarship program is an impressive addition to your college applications.
The top 50,000 scorers on the PSAT are recognized by the National Merit Program and sent letters of commendation. More than 10,000 of these students share more than $47 million in National Merit Scholarship money.
The most well-known scholarship offered, of course, is the National Merit Scholarship. As noted, only juniors who take the PSAT are eligible for National Merit Scholarships. The top 50,000 scorers are recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program and sent letters of commendation. The top 16,000 scorers become semi-finalists, and approximately 14,000 semi-finalists become finalists. Finally, almost 8,500 National Merit finalists actually receive National Merit Scholarships, which award up to $2,500 a year toward a college education. Many high scorers who don't receive National Merit Scholarships may still be awarded merit scholarships from the schools to which they apply on the basis of their high scores. Whether you qualify as a Commended Student, a Semi-Finalist, a Finalist, or a full-fledged National Merit Scholar, it's definitely worth noting this achievement on your college applications.
Note, also, that if you do receive a letter of commendation but do not qualify to become a National Merit finalist, you could still be eligible for a Special Scholarship. To be considered for Special Scholarships, students who meet a corporate or business sponsor's criteria must file entry forms directly with that organization, which then forwards the entry forms back to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. A list of corporate organizations that sponsor Special Scholarships is given in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Bulletin. The NMSC subsequently contacts high scoring candidates through their high schools, and the students and their school officials then submit detailed scholarship applications. Finally, these applications are evaluated, and 1,700 students are awarded Special Scholarships.
For more information on the National Merit Scholarships and Special Scholarships, visit nationalmerit.org or write to:
National Merit Scholarship Corporation
1560 Sherman Avenue, Suite 200
Evanston, IL 60201-4897
The National Hispanic Scholar Recognition Program
Hispanic students may qualify for aid from this program, which sends the names of 4,000 high-scoring students to colleges to promote recruitment efforts and offers of financial aid.
For more information, write to:
National Hispanic Scholar Recognition Program
c/o The College Board
1233 20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students
African American students who plan to attend two- or four-year colleges may qualify for this program. This program offers a college advisory and recruitment service at no charge.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to:
National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students
250 Auburn Avenue NE, Suite 500
Atlanta, GA 30303
The Telluride Association
This association offers scholarships to gifted juniors for summer seminars in the humanities and social sciences.
For more information, email email@example.com, visit tellurideassociation.org, or write to:
217 West Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14850
The PSAT is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and is made up of mostly multiple-choice questions testing three subject areas. Those areas are Critical Reading, Math, and Writing, and they are broken down into five sections on the exam.
Here's how the PSAT is scored:
Correct answer 1 point
Unanswered question 0 points
Incorrect answer to a Math grid-in 0 points
Incorrect answer to a multiple-choice question -- 1/4 point
You gain one point for each correct answer on the PSAT and lose a fraction of a point (1/4) for every wrong answer. The exception is Math Grid-ins, where you lose nothing for a wrong answer. You do not lose any points for questions you leave blank. This is important, so we'll repeat it: you do not lose any points for questions you leave blank.
The totals for the Critical Reading, Math, and Writing sections are added up to produce three separate raw scores. These raw scores equal the number you got right minus a fraction of the number you got wrong.
Raw score = number right minus 1/4 of the number wrong
These scores are converted into scaled scores from 20 to 80. A table providing a rough translation of how raw scores convert into scaled scores (the conversion formula changes slightly from test to test) appears in Section Two.
Add the three scores together and you get your Selection Index. At the time of printing, the Selection Index ranges from 60 to 240. The average raw score on the Critical Reading, Math, and Writing components is approximately 49. The average Selection Index is approximately 147.
The PSAT also gives you a percentile, which allows you to compare your scores with those of other juniors applying to college. A student with a percentile of 63 has earned a score better than 63 of every 100 college-bound juniors who took the test.
Now that you know why to take the test and what it is all about, let's get into how, as in, how to attack the PSAT.
The PSAT is different from the tests you are used to taking in school. The good news is you can use the PSAT's particular structure to your scoring advantage.
Here's an example. On a school test, you probably go through the problems in order. You spend more time on the hard questions than on the easy ones because harder questions are usually worth more points. You probably often show your work because the teacher tells you that how you approach a problem is as important as getting the answer right.
None of this works on the PSAT. If you use the same approach on the PSAT, your score will suffer. On the PSAT, you benefit from moving around within a section if you come across hard questions because the hard questions are worth the same as the easy ones. It doesn't matter how you answer the questions -- only that you get them right.
The PSAT is special. To succeed on the PSAT, you need to know its quirks and how to use them to your advantage. Once you fully understand the PSAT's personality, you may even find yourself wishing tests at school were more like it.
Basic Strategy 1
Know the Enemy
The key to success on the PSAT is knowing what to expect. The PSAT format -- that is, the directions, the types of questions, and the traps that the test makers put in the questions -- is almost identical from test to test. The only thing the test makers change are the questions themselves.
That means one of the easiest things you can do to improve your performance on the PSAT is to know its format before you take the test. For example, if you learn the PSAT directions as you read this book, you can spend all of your time during the test answering the questions and getting your highest score possible instead of reading the directions, which you already know, because they never change. Get it? Great.
Basic Strategy 2
Use Order of Difficulty to Your Advantage
Many of the PSAT sections arrange their questions so they get more difficult as you work through a question set. In a question set that goes from 1 to 9, question 2 would be fairly easy, question 5 would be moderately more difficult, and question 9 would be really hard.
This is true of both Math question types (regular math and Grid-ins) and the Sentence Completion questions in the Critical Reading sections. The Reading Comprehension portion of the Critical Reading sections and the Writing Skills section questions are NOT arranged in any particular order of difficulty.
You can use this knowledge to your scoring advantage. As you work, always be aware of where you are in the set. When working on the easy problems, you can generally trust your first impulse -- the obvious answer is likely to be right. As you get to the end of the set, you need to become more suspicious. The answers probably shouldn't come easily. If they do, look at the problem again because the obvious answer is likely to be wrong. Watch out for the answer that just looks right. It might be a distractor, or a trap -- a wrong answer choice meant to entice you. (We'll go into detail on the PSAT's favorite kinds of distractors later.)
Basic Strategy 3
Don't Get Stuck. Move On
You're not allowed to work on other sections during the test, but you are allowed to skip around within each section of the PSAT. High scorers know this. They move through the test efficiently. They don't dwell on any one question, even a hard one, until they've tried every question at least once.
The key is to be systematic. When you run into questions that look tough, circle them in your test booklet and skip them. Go back and try again after you have answered the easier ones. Remember, you don't get more points for answering hard questions. If you get two easy ones right in the time it would have taken you to get one hard one right, you just gained points.
There's another benefit for coming back to hard ones later. On their second look, troublesome questions can turn out to be simple. By answering some easier questions first, you can come back to a harder question with fresh eyes, a fresh perspective, and more confidence.
Basic Strategy 4
Know When to Guess
There is no penalty for guessing on the PSAT. There is only a penalty for getting a wrong answer. If you can determine that one or more answers are definitely wrong, then you should probably guess from the remaining choices. Even if you aren't sure which one of them is absolutely correct, you've at least increased your chances of success by paring the selection down.
Here's why. If you get an answer wrong on any multiple-choice question on the PSAT, you lose 1/4 point. These fractional points you lose are supposed to offset the points you might earn accidentally by guessing the correct answer, and here's where our techniques really help you out. By learning Kaplan's techniques, you can eliminate wrong answer choices on almost all PSAT questions, even if you have no idea what the actual right answer is. By eliminating wrong answer choices, you are creating a guessing advantage.
The PSAT has one question type that is not affected by this strategy. Remember, if you get an answer wrong on a Grid-in math question, for which you write in your own answers, you lose nothing. So you should write in an answer for every Grid-in. The worst that can happen is that you get zero points for the questions you guessed on.
Basic Strategy 5
Respect Your Answer Sheet
It sounds simple, but it's extremely important: Don't make mistakes filling out your answer grid. When time is short, it's easy to get confused going back and forth between your test book and your grid. If you know the answer, but misgrid, you won't get the points. To avoid mistakes on the answer grid, you could try some of the methods below.
Circle the Questions You Skip
Perhaps the most common PSAT disaster is filling in all of the questions with the right answers in the wrong spots. Every time you skip a question, put a big circle in your test booklet around questions you skip to help you locate these questions when you are ready to go back to them. Also, if you accidentally skip a box on the grid, you can always check your grid against your book to see where you went wrong.
Circle the Answers You Choose
Circling your answers in the test book makes it easier to check your grid against your book. It also makes the next grid strategy possible.
Grid Five or More Answers at Once
Time is of the essence on this exam. To save time and make sure you are marking your answers in the correct bubbles, transfer your answers after every five questions or at the end of each reading passage, rather than after every question. That way, you won't keep breaking your concentration to mark the grid. You'll end up with more time and fewer chances to make a mistake on your answer sheet.
Basic Strategy 6
Think About the Question Before You Check the Answer Choices
The people who make the test love to put distractors among the answer choices. Distractors are answer choices that look right but aren't, and they are easy to choose if you haven't read the question carefully. If you jump right into the answer choices without thinking first about exactly what you're looking for, you're much more likely to fall for these traps.
Basic Strategy 7
Use Shortcuts if You Have To
There are usually a number of ways to get to the right answer on a PSAT question. Most of the questions on the PSAT are multiple choice. That means the answer is right in front of you -- you just have to find it. This makes PSAT questions open to several different ways of finding the answer.
If you can't figure out the answer the straightforward way, try other techniques. We'll explore these approaches in detail in the following chapters.
Basic Strategy 8
Pay Attention to Where You Are in a Question Set
As we noted earlier, many of the question sets (except for Reading Comprehension and the Writing Skills section) start out easy and gradually get harder. So if an early question seems hard, make sure to take a second look; you're bound to be missing something obvious. If a hard question seems easy, watch out! You may be falling into a trap.
Finally, don't be upset if you have to skip a couple of the hard questions altogether; by spending your time elsewhere, you'll probably do better on the questions you did answer. You don't have to answer every single question, even if you're aiming for a National Merit Scholarship.
Basic Strategy 9
Look for Quick Points When You're Running Out of Time
Some questions can be done quickly. For instance, some Critical Reading questions will ask you to identify the meaning of a particular word in the passage. These can be done at the last minute, even if you haven't read the passage. When you start to run out of time, try to locate and answer the questions that can earn you quick points. When you take the PSAT, you should have one clear objective in mind -- to score as many points as you can. It's that simple. The rest of this book will help you do that.
Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan, Inc.
Excerpted from Kaplan New PSAT by Kaplan Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
|Get with the Program||ix|
|How to Use This Book||ix|
|Section 1||PSAT Strategies|
|Chapter 1||Be the PSAT||3|
|Chapter 1 Summary||11|
|Chapter 2||How to Attack the Critical Reading Sections||13|
|Critical Reading Basics||14|
|Vocabulary and Context||14|
|A Vocabulary-Building Plan||18|
|Decoding Tough Vocabulary||19|
|Sentence Completion Questions||21|
|Kaplan's Four-Step Method||22|
|Two-Blank Sentence Completion Questions||24|
|Reading Comprehension Questions||28|
|Types of Reading Comprehension Questions||31|
|Kaplan's Five-Step Method||36|
|Chapter 2 Summary||38|
|Answers and Explanations||48|
|Chapter 3||How to Attack the Math Sections||53|
|Kaplan's Three-Step Method||58|
|Math Shortcuts: Kid-tested, Kaplan Approved||59|
|Calculators and the PSAT||67|
|Basic Math and How to Attack It||69|
|Advanced Math and How to Attack It||75|
|Chapter 3 Summary||94|
|Answers and Explanations||101|
|Chapter 4||How to Attack the Writing Section||105|
|Kaplan's Three-Step Method||110|
|Sentence Correction Questions||118|
|Chapter 4 Summary||128|
|Answers and Explanations||134|
|Chapter 5||How to Prepare for Test Day||137|
|The Day Before||138|
|The Day of the Test||138|
|During the Test||140|
|After the Test||140|
|One Week to PSAT Greatness||140|
|Chapter 5 Summary||142|
|Section 2||Practice Tests and Explanations|
|Chapter 6||Practice Test One||145|
|Answers and Explanations||183|
|Chapter 7||Practice Test Two||195|
|Answers and Explanations||233|
|Chapter 8||Practice Test Three||245|
|Answers and Explanations||285|
|Chapter 9||Compute Your Score||301|
|Section 3||PSAT Study Aids|
|Appendix 1||SAT Essay Preview||309|
|Appendix 2||Word Families||321|
|Appendix 3||Root List||325|
|Appendix 4||Writing Skills||335|
|Appendix 5||Word List||345|
|Appendix 6||Math in a Nutshell||381|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is really good. It has study aids at the end which are extraordinarily helpful. The study aids include a word list, roots list, common math formulas and techniques and best of all, a section on writing. This writing section includes the kinds of questions on the test and common rules. THIS IS REALLY GOOOD.
This is the only book that I've been able to find that deals with the new PSAT in itself. Although the material on the PSAT and SAT are similiar, it's helpful to me to study for one at a time.