Tackling Different Types of PSAT Test Questions
Part of the PSAT/NMSQT For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Test-writers aren’t explorers; they don’t like moving into new territory. Sad for them (they’re probably bored!), but good for you, because after you know where test-writers are comfortable, you can focus on those areas. Here’s a map to the questions and topics likely to show up on the PSAT/NMSQT.
Things to look for in writing questions:
Verbs: tense, agreement (singular or plural forms)
Pronouns: case (they or them or their and so forth), agreement (singular or plural), logical and clear meaning
Sentences: completeness (no fragments or run-ons), parallel structure (elements with the same role in the sentence have the same grammatical identity), proper punctuation
Descriptions: clear, close to the word described
Comparisons: logical and complete
Nonstandard expressions: no slang — proper English only!
Logical structure (in paragraph-improvement questions): unified paragraphs, logical movement from one idea to another, good introduction and conclusion, specific instead of vague, general statements
Helpful hints for critical reading questions:
Sentence completions: Underline key words. Mentally insert your own word into the blank and look for a match in the answer choices. Check both blanks of a two-blank question before settling on an answer.
Passage-based questions: Skim the introductory material and question stems. Read the passage, jotting notes in the margin and underlining key points. Answer the questions.
Techniques to remember for mathematics questions:
Use your calculator for basic operations (adding, dividing, square roots, and so forth), but don’t forget to apply logic and formulas as needed to determine an answer.
Sketch diagrams for geometry, time/rate/distance, and other problems.
Grid-in decimals or fractions but not mixed numbers (3-1/2 will be read as 31/2). Don’t round off an answer (bubble .338, not .34).
Plug in a number to check your logic. For example, in a percent problem about a sale price, plug in $100 for the original price and work from there.
Ballpark the answer by thinking about what may be a reasonable answer. Then check the answer you came up with by working on the problem. If your answer is out of the ballpark, recheck. For example, if you ballpark a 10% discount and calculate a 90% discount, something may be wrong.
Back-solve by inserting answer choices into the question, starting with Choice (C). Move to a smaller or larger answer choice depending on the results of that calculation.
Use the process of elimination to cross off obviously wrong answers.