SAT: Rinse and Repeat, Pt 1 of 2

How to maximize your score on college admissions tests


11th graders will take the PSAT in October. Although many students take the PSAT more than once, the 11th grade test, taken in the fall, is the most important because it comes closest calendar-wise to taking the SAT.

When PSAT results become available, study the “Question –Level Feedback” page carefully. It is divided into four parts: Reading, Writing & Language, Math-Calculator, and Math-No Calculator.

1)   Using the “Reading” part as an example, you will see five vertical columns.

The first column is entitled “question # s”. Notice that each question # is a link. More about this in a moment.

The second column gives you the correct answer.

The third column gives you a check mark if you made the correct choice. If you chose incorrectly, this column will show your incorrect response.

The fourth column shows you the question difficulty –easy, medium, or hard.

The fifth column will provide you with information about the type of question (command of evidence or word-in-context for example) and will also tell you the passage’s subject (history, social studies, or science).

2)   As I already mentioned, each “question #” is a link. Clicking on one will show you the question and the answer choices and explain why the correct response is correct.

3)   Clicking on the “question #” for a question you got wrong will additionally tell you why the correct answer is correct and why your incorrect response is incorrect. This is very important to understanding what you got wrong and why.

4)   The PSAT also provides valuable information about subscores and cross-test scores.

On the attached PDF, I have provided sample PSAT “Question Level Feedback” pages.

Here are some questions a careful analysis of the preceding pages will answer.

Are science passages more difficult for you than social studies passages? What about history passages?

Are you challenged most by higher difficulty questions or are you also struggling with moderately difficult questions? How about easy questions?

Are you struggling with paired passages? Most students do.

Do you have a significant number of errors with word-in-context questions? How about command of evidence questions? Looking at the actual questions will provide even more specific information about types of questions that are challenging for you. For example, do you have difficulty recognizing the main idea of a reading passage, or the author’s tone?

Are you running out of time and leaving some questions unanswered, or are you being forced to wild guess because you’re running out of time near the end of the section?

Is your vocabulary compromising you?

Do you find the fiction selection more difficult than the nonfiction essays?

Are you answering incorrectly because you haven’t read the question carefully enough?

These are only a sampling of questions you may be able to answer if you take the time to really analyze PSAT feedback!