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Top 5 Things to Study for the PSAT

Teacher/Instructor Danielle DeLancey
Danielle DeLancey

Harvard University
PSAT expert

Danielle is a high scorer on the PSAT, National Merit Scholarship finalist and "Teach for America" corps member. She has masters in Education from Harvard University.

In the other episodes, we looked at strategies for taking the PSAT and sections specific strategies. Now, strategies are just one part of taking the test. You also need to know the content. And while you can’t learn how to read overnight or three years of mathematics, there are a few things that you can review that always show up on the PSAT.

The first and the most important, because it shows up in the writing section, and the critical reading section is vocabulary. How do you improve your vocabulary? Some people like to use flashcards. If that’s you, we actually have interactive flashcards that are built on the free Brightstorm PSAT package.

Another thing that you can do, that we’ll probably help you even more because you’re not learning the words in isolation, is to read reputable publications. I know that you and your friends probably read something like Rolling Stone, or Cosmo Girl, or ESPN magazine, and that’s great as long as you’re reading the articles. But often times, they’re not really needy and they don’t have really substantial vocabulary.

To improve your vocabulary, I’d highly recommend picking up newspapers, or things like The Economist. That have really advance vocabulary, that’s going to show up on the SAT and the PSAT, and will help you in school as well.

The second content area that you should study, if you have time, is pronouns. Now why pronouns? On the writing section, it's very content heavy. This is for the PSAT and the SAT. And lots of grammatical concepts show up; modifiers, parallelisms, subject-verb agreement. But pronoun reference and pronoun case show up most of all. So, if you’re stuck in and you’re not really good at grammar, there are a few things that you can do and studying pronouns is one of them.

The third thing that’s really important to study, and it shows up all over the maths section, is arithmetic. Now I know you may say well I learned arithmetic in elementary school, why do I need to learn it? Studying arithmetic is really important because it shows up on more advance concepts. Like say for example you’re solving a complicated algebra problem. If you don’t know the definitions and the simple arithmetic, you’re not going to get those advanced concepts right, even if you know them.

The last and the final thing, to make sure to brush up on for the PSAT and for the SAT, is either algebra or Geometry. Now on the PSAT, Algebra II actually doesn’t show up. It will show up on the SAT and the ACT. Actually even the ACT, even has trigonometry which is pretty advanced. But for the PSAT, you are only going to need to know Algebra 1 or Geometry.

Usually students are better at one or the other. So, take whichever one you’re not as comfortable with, pick up your textbook and get started. Remember, the PSAT is just practice for the SAT. And whatever you do, you’re still going to come out ahead.

So while it may be hard to learn all of these content areas, there are a few that you can really focus on when studying for the PSAT. But also remember, that is not just learning the content, it’s not like a test that you take in your subjects. You also have to learn to apply it.

So make sure after you’re done studying all these content areas, to sit down with practice test and sit down with practice problem sets, so that you can really learn to apply this content like it’s going to be seen on the PSAT.