Most of the kids with whom we work through the college process come to us right around the time of the PSAT in their sophomore or junior year. We take systematic preparation for this test seriously because it is a great way for a student to gain confidence early in the process. For an overview of our thoughts on the college process in general, please visit the college coaching page of this site. Below, you’ll find a summary of the PSAT process specifically, which can help you gain some familiarity with it, as you and your family take the first steps in this new journey. Remember that we are available to you to help situate the PSAT within the college process and to craft the right PSAT process for your child. Feel free to contact us about any question, no matter small.
Determine when your child will take the test and plan his/her preparation schedule
The PSAT is typically administered in October. You may start to consider your preparation in the spring of your sophomore year or in the summer before your junior year. The PSAT is highly coachable, patterned, and predictable. We have found that repetition leads to dramatically superior outcomes. We recommend a minimum of 16 sessions to cover the entirety of the test. Most of our students space these sessions out over the course of two to four months in a Comprehensive Package
If your child has more time or you feel that he/she would benefit from additional preparation, you may choose the Planning Ahead Package which includes 20 sessions. Generally, the Planning Ahead Package allows for additional focus on one or two sections and more extended coaching on practice exams. The value of an extended PSAT study process for students' eventual performance on the SAT cannot be overstated. When students study for the PSAT, they get a head start on the SAT. Therefore, investment in this process typically means savings down the road.
Have your child familiarize him/herself with the format of the exam
The College Board provides this summary of the PSAT format. In addition to familiarizing him/herself with the content and timing requirements, we recommend that your child complete the sample questions provided on the PSAT website.
Have your child establish a baseline on a practice test
Establishing a baseline score is an important first step in the process of studying for the PSAT. We highly recommend taking a full-length official practice exam as your diagnostic. We usually advise students to take Test 1 out of the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide because we can input the results into our software to understand where you are starting.
Take your diagnostic exam under timed conditions and complete it in one sitting. Sustained focus over a long stretch of time can be one of the primary challenges associated with the PSAT and SAT. Give yourself about three hours and forty-five minutes to complete the test, including two 10-minute breaks. Follow the scoring instructions to see how you did. For the essay, share it with your tutor and your tutor will grade it for you, which will give you a complete diagnostic score on the writing section.
Your score on this diagnostic exam is not particularly important. Your correct and incorrect answers serve as a starting point for you and your tutor, allowing us to build an initial game plan aimed at addressing your weaknesses.
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Once you have a score from a diagnostic exam, we can advise you more specifically on what kind of preparation program makes sense. The more information you provide the better. If possible, please summarize your performance on each section of the exam, your goals, your schedule, and any specific concerns you have about your preparation. One of our tutors would be happy to discuss a preparation schedule that suits your needs. In addition, this can often be the right moment to craft a broader strategy for the college process. When you contact us, please let us know if you would like to explore more broadly.
Tutoring & Practice Testing
Once we’ve matched your child with a tutor, the real work begins! Your child will meet with a tutor regularly (ideally, at least once or twice per week), complete homework in between sessions, and take practice tests. Practice tests are the best way for us to understand your child’s performance on the PSAT, and to gauge progress during the course of tutoring. Based on the results of practice tests, your tutor will adjust his or her approach, and make sure your child is getting as much out of the process as possible.