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PSAT: Passing Scary Aptitude Testing

Every year in Oct., approximately 3.5 million sophomores and juniors in the United States take the Preliminary SAT. Typically know as the PSAT, this 2 hour and 45 minute exam tests students' reading, writing and math knowledge. The PSAT is scored from 350-1520 points.

According to CollegeRaptor, the average PSAT score of Harvard-admitted students is between 1420 and 1520. This year, the score to get commended is 1500. Every year, College Board, an organization dedicated to preparing students for college by providing services such as the SAT and Advanced Placement Programs, increases the preferred score for the PSAT.

The PSAT is a fast-paced exam with very little time to think. According to Kaplan Prep Test, the best strategies to use during the test are triaging, elimination and guessing. Triaging requires starting with the easy questions and skipping the difficult ones.

Kaplan suggests time-consuming questions are done prior to the difficult ones.  To prepare for prolonged questions, pick an answer choice letter the day before the test and stick with that one. Eliminating answer choices will increase the chance of getting the correct answer. It is important to remember that there will be no penalty for wrong answers, so when time is slim, it is okay to guess.

Days leading up to the PSAT can be stressful.

"I got really nervous, especially the day before the PSAT. I didn't know how to study or what the test would be like," said Hanks senior, Mia Cisneros.

According to Method Test prep, there are 5 recommended study tips. The first is to not worry about memorizing. The PSAT is based off of knowledge students have acquired throughout their life. Recalling specific facts for the test is not required. For the math section, any needed formulas are provided. The next tip is to pay attention in class and review notes. The test bases off knowledge acquired mainly in high school and their ability to work on the spot with their information.

The third suggestion is to read. According to studies done by Temple University Psychology Professor Jason Chein, reading is proven to increase critical thinking skills that transfer well into test-taking.

Taking a PSAT prep test is also. Taking a prep test will help the test taker familiarize themselves with the test and highlight weak spots.

The PSAT does not count in college applications, according to Kaplan Test Prep. However, the PSAT is the National Merit Scholar Qualification Test, which names the highest achieving students.

These students, referred to as National Merit Scholars, have more opportunities to earn scholarships than those who are not.

According to USA Today, if a person were to get perfect SAT score but they're not a National Merit Scholar, they would get less scholarships than the person who is a NMS, with or without a perfect SAT score.

Becoming a National Merit Scholar is not simple to achieve and only one percent of top scorers go on to become semifinalists.

The top 50,000 PSAT scorers qualify for program recognition and out of those, 34,000 students will be recognized as commended students. The highest-scoring students from each state qualify as semifinalists, they will be sent applications to become finalists. Out of 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 finalists will be chosen and be able to apply for National Merit Scholarships. 12,000 of them will receive Corporate scholarships, while 7,500 will be the National Merit Scholarship winners.

Not becoming a National Merit Scholar doesn't mean high-achievers won't receive recognition, any National Merit Scholar title will still be beneficial for scholarships.

Natalie M. Johnson, a 2014 National Merit Scholar, told the National Merit Scholar Program, "I believe my education will open doors to the professional world and a promising future, and will allow me to find my life's purpose without the stress of financial insecurity."

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