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What to Do (and Not to Do) the Night Before the PSAT

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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.

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about the PSAT, you’ve practiced your strategies, you’ve brushed up on your content, there are a few things that you need to remember about the test day itself, and the day before the test.

Most importantly, what to bring and what not to bring. The first thing that you absolutely need, is you need a number 2 pencil. It used to be that you could use either a mechanical pencil, or a wooden pencil. But now, you actually can’t use mechanical pencils. You have to use a wooden No.2 pencil, preferably with eraser in case you need to re-bubble.

The second thing that’s not required, but highly recommended is that you bring a calculator. Almost any calculator type will do, as long as it doesn’t spit paper or make funny noises, your TI-84, or your scientific calculator those will work. The calculator on your cell phone however, will not work.

The other thing that you should bring, again it's not required is you should bring a snack, something healthy like an apple or some Crackers. Stay away from really salty, sugary snacks. You don’t want to crash during the middle of the test.

Now, another thing that you should bring that we talked about before, is you really should make sure to being a watch. Remember, there are five timed sections. Four sections that are 25 minutes, and one section that’s 30 minutes. It’s really important to keep a close eye on your time, and how long it’s taking you to solve each type of question. The last thing you want to do is run out of time at the end of each section.

Now, just as important as the things that you need to bring, are the things that you should not bring that are just completely banned. You cannot bring highlighters. So I know that on the critical reading section, you might want to go through and highlight certain passages and circle, but unfortunately you can’t do that.

Also, you may finish early. If you finish early you might want to pull out like a book or a magazine, but unfortunately you can’t do that either. You're just going to have to sit there. You can put down your head, but you can’t do anything while everybody else is taking the test. Other things that you cannot bring include white-out. Why would you white-out in pencil anyways? It doesn’t make any sense.

Now, things that you should do the night before the test. There are some things you should do, and there are definitely some things you should not do. You should not get adventurous. If you don’t eat meat, don’t eat a big mack the night before, common sense. If you don’t typically drink coffee, don’t go get the double cappuccino in the morning. You want to stick as close as you can to your regular schedule.

Another thing that you should not do the night before the test, you should not cram. If you haven’t learned it by now, the night before, you’re not going to learn it in order to do well in the test. What you should do is you should relax. Just try to do something that you enjoy. Whether it’s going for a bike ride or watching T, hang out with your friends, just relax. Remember, it’s a PSAT, the Preliminary SAT. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not going to count against you if you don’t do well. Just relax and try to stay stress free.

What should you do on test day? Well, there are three things you really need to do. Number one, you need to be on time. If the test is given at your school, make sure you show up at school on time. If the test is given on Saturday, make sure you know where you’re going, so it doesn’t take you a lot longer and you miss the test. Remember, if you show up even one minute late, they’re not going to let you in. So it’s really important to be on time.

The other thing you should do is you should dress comfortably. Test centers and schools are usually either cold or really hot, so make sure you wear layers and bring a sweater just in case it get cold.

The third thing you should do and I know it sounds stupid, but you should make sure you eat a good breakfast. Make sure to eat something a little bit substantial like peanut butter on toast and eggs, some cereal. You don’t want to get really hungry during the test and you’ll be thinking about your growling stomach instead of the questions themselves.

Remember the PSAT is just a first step in the college admissions process. You also have standardized test like the SAT or the ACT, your grades, which are really important, and your extracurricular activities which are also really important.

Now that we dispelled all of those myths that we’ve heard about the PSAT and gotten down to the facts, you’re well prepared to do great on the test.