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.

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National Merit Scholarship Program


About the PSAT

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.


Welcome to Brightstorm’s PSAT course. I know when you hear about it’s like SAT, ACT, PSAT, you might get a little bit stressed out. Honestly, you really don’t have anything to worry about. In this course we’re going to take a look at what exactly the PSAT is, some top test taking strategies and how you can best prepare for success and testing.

Now before we get into the nitty gritty about the PSAT, it’s always really helpful to talk to students to hear their experience. I'm here on UC Berkeley campus and we’re going to talk to a few students about their experience taking the PSAT.

What is PSAT?

I guess it’s just a preparation for SAT.

PSAT well, it’s a test that you take to prepare for the SAT.

I don’t know for Pharmacy?

It’s like a primer for the SATs, I want to say like 10th and 11th graders. I’m thinking maybe 9th graders too. It’s kind of like a test that you take in high school to kind of prepare you when you actually take the SATs.

What does PSAT stand for?

I have no idea.


PSAT stands for Personal Service Assistance Program.

Practice SAT.

Do you remember taking the PSAT?

I don’t remember at all.

Yeah I remember taking it but not too well.


I don’t remember my scores, I know I did pretty good. I actually got a scholarship for it.

How did you prepare for the test?

I didn’t prepare. No one prepares.

I didn’t.

I don’t think I did.

I didn’t prepare for it.

What would you tell students preparing for PSAT?

To relax and it’s more of a jumping off point and something anyone would prepare for.

Besides school materials, to read outside materials like magazines just to train your reading skills and also vocabulary building.

I would tell them it’s a waste of time.

I would tell them to take it seriously just because with all the tests that they have in high school, they’re not really just doing it so you can do it, it really helps you out especially if you’re graded. Like I said it opens you to a lot of scholarship opportunities that you may not know about because some you can’t really apply for them they find you because of your test scores.

PSAT. PSAT is basically an acronym, it stands for Preliminary SAT. SAT being the SAT reasoning test not that the SAT IIs. Over 1.3 million students take the PSAT every year. Most of them are sophomores and juniors, but other students take it as well. Unlike the SAT, the PSAT is actually administered through your school almost always in the second or the third week of October.

Now each school doesn’t have its own PSAT, all students take the same test and it’s given to your school by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Program. Now why should you take the PSAT? There are three main reasons why. First, is that its great practice for the SAT. You’ll be in simulated test taking conditions, and you’ll get familiar with the tests structure and the types of questions on the test.

The second reason is that you’ll actually be enrolled in something called College Quick start. College Quick start is a free program through the College Board. And it basically breaks down the PSAT questions into different categories, similar to what the Brightstorm course does. It provides you opportunity to see where you need to practice, and where you need to study up.

The third reason to take the PSAT, and what some people consider as the most important reason, is that by taking PSAT you’ll automatically be entered into the National Merit Scholarship competition. Now this completion is nationwide and they choose 50,000 finalists to be entered into the final round. Now if you do end up winning this competition, you do get money for scholarships, and that’s really important especially if you attend a tap university.

Now that we’ve learnt a little bit about what the PSAT is, and why you should take it, let’s take a closer look at the PSAT itself. The PSAT is basically a shorter version of the SAT. The SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes, and with the PSAT you’ll only be testing for 2 hours and 10 minutes. The PSAT has five sections; two critical reading sections, two math sections and one writing section.

The two critical reading sections are each 25 minutes .In these critical reading sections, you’ll see a variety of question types. You’ll see some passage based questions and you’ll also see some sentence completion questions that really test your vocabulary.

In the two 25-minute math sections, you’ll see two question types. You’ll see multiple choice and you’ll also see grid-in questions. Now, the PSAT actually doesn’t test algebra II concepts, those will be tested on the SAT but not the PSAT. Instead, they’ll test your math reasoning, some pre-algebra, algebra and geometry.

In the PSAT you’ll also have one writing section. Unlike the SAT, the PSAT writing section doesn’t require you to take an essay. Instead you’ll have all multiple choice questions for three question types. You’ll have a question type called identifying errors. You’ll have a question type that will ask you to improve sentences and another question type that will ask you to improve paragraphs. Like I said, you’ll see all these types of questions on the SAT, you’ll also see them on the PSAT, but the PSAT is just as shorter version of the SAT with fewer questions.

Now that you’ve learnt a little bit about what the PSAT is, why you should take it, and what the test structure looks like, let’s take a look at how you can prepare for the test.

Now people often say that you can’t really study for the PSAT and in a way they’re kind of right. It’s really difficult to study all of that content that’s going to be on it. You can do a few things to prepare yourself to be better on the PSAT.

The first thing you can do, is you can review and to learn a couple of test taking strategies. In other episodes, we’ll take a look at strategies on the overall PSAT, and then also some strategies for each of the specific subjects; critical reading, math and writing.

The second thing you can do to prepare, is you can brush up on some content areas where you may be weak. Say for example, that you take a couple of quizzes and a couple of practice test, and you find that your vocabulary is not that great. It may be time to burst out some flash cards but to start reading a little bit more.

The third thing that you can do, and this is the most important, is that you can become familiar with the test structure through practicing. Practicing is the number one way to improve your score on the PSAT. There a couple of ways that you can do this. First off, your school counsellor will have a booklet. It’s published by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Committee. In there, they have a couple of strategies plus an official following practice test. The other thing you can do is you can take courses, like the Brightstorm course, that shows you some top strategies, some content areas, and also provides practice opportunities.

Go ahead, get started and you’re well on your way to doing great on the PSAT.

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