Setting Your PSAT Test-Taking Strategy

Part of the PSAT/NMSQT For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Every correct answer you bubble on your PSAT/NMSQT earns exactly one point, whether the question is super easy or horrendously hard. Your goal is to harvest the maximum number of points from a large field of questions — within the time limit! To do so, you need a strategy. Check out these tips, which explain what to skip and what to answer.

  • What you shouldn’t skip:

    • Grid-ins: You lose no points for wrong answers, so take a stab at all of them.

    • Vocabulary-in-context: These are usually the easiest passage-based questions. Try them all!

    • Questions with three possible correct answer choices: You lose no points for a skipped answer but a quarter point for a wrong answer. If you can eliminate two or more wrong choices, guess! Your chances of gaining a full point are better than your chances of losing a quarter point.

    • Questions at the beginning of a section: Except for passage-based questions in reading and paragraph improvement, the questions go from easy to medium to difficult. Try for everything on the easy end of a section, even if you skip some later questions.

    • Introductory material for reading passages: Sometimes knowing the author or type of material helps you choose an answer.

  • What you should skip:

    • General directions: You should know the directions ahead of time.

    • Questions with vocabulary you don’t know: If every answer choice puzzles you, cut your losses and move on.

    • Questions at the end of a section, except for passage-based questions: Because the questions get tougher toward the end of a section, the last few in a section may stump you. If you can’t eliminate any answer choices, leave a blank. (If you can cross off an answer or two, guess.)

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