Offers a nice mixture of advice on test-taking strategies and study materials for the PSAT. Offers 2 practice tests with clear explanations of the answers. Includes additional math drills for students who need extra help in that area. Tips for better multiple choice question results.
May be too large to work through quickly for last-minute test cramming.
Offers an area with detailed study materials and test taking ideas, as well as an area with a basic overview for those pressed for time. Focuses on test-taking strategies to have success with PSAT. Answers to practice test questions contain detailed explanations, helping you figure out your mistakes.
Typographical errors and some mathematical errors are off-putting.
Provides 3 complete practice tests and a downloadable fourth test to help you figure out the areas in which you need help. Will give students confidence to take the PSAT. Explanations of the answers are available to help you understand any mistakes made.
Book is a couple of years old. Price is a little higher than some other options.
Includes 2 full practice tests. Tips for taking the test that are focused on each section of the PSAT. Low price point for a test prep book. Good for giving students a base knowledge of the PSAT materials. Advice about National Merit Scholarships.
More of an overview type of book, rather than delving deeply into each subject.
Extremely detailed PSAT guide. Many practice test questions that feature precise explanations of answers to help you understand why you made a mistake. Gives advice on understanding the vocabulary words required to have success on the PSAT tests.
High price for a test prep book. May overwhelm some students with details.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Almost everyone has some apprehension about taking tests, especially one as important as the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). The test gives students an idea of what to expect when it comes time to take the SAT. Students who score well on the PSAT can also qualify for scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. It’s like one stepping-stone to a successful start to college and a student’s future career goals.
Although thinking about the PSAT can be overwhelming, adequate preparation ahead of testing day will help calm nerves and possibly result in a higher score. That’s where a PSAT prep book comes in handy.
You have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a PSAT prep book, but BestReviews can help you find the best guide with the information and materials to meet almost any student’s needs. You can read about our favorite PSAT prep books and how they made the cut. The shopping guide below provides more in-depth information to help you decide. If you’re ready to help the student in your life do their best on the PSAT, read on.
The full name of the test, the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, comes from the co-sponsorship of the nonprofit National Merit Scholarship Corporation that awards scholarships to students. The College Board of the United States administers the test to high school sophomores and juniors. The best way to think of the PSAT/NMSQT is as preparation for the SAT.
Students have 2.75 hours to complete the PSAT, which is typically given at their school in October. The maximum score on the test is 1520.
PSAT test sections
The PSAT includes several test sections based on key knowledge students will need to get into and succeed in college. Individual tests in the PSAT include the following:
Math test: Math problems replicate the ways in which students will use mathematics in college, daily life, and career settings. Problems on the test range from data equations to algebra to advanced math.
Reading test: This portion consists of passages on a variety of topics and requires students to answer questions with information located in the readings. It focuses on analysis of the details in the passages rather than memorization.
Writing and language test: This portion focuses on skills students use frequently in the classroom and challenges them to read, locate errors, and make appropriate corrections. Questions will be centered on a variety of subjects and topics.
Many questions within these three sections focus on other subjects, including history, social studies, and key figures throughout the world. This added educational material prompts students to analyze questions while also honing in on other important subjects that they’ve already encountered in their schooling and that they’ll be studying in more depth in college.
What the PSAT measures
Each portion of the PSAT measures where students rank on various skills. Their performance helps provide direction for preparing for the SAT and furthering their education.
Basic understanding of math: In addition to evaluating students’ ability to apply math to everyday situations, the math portion of the PSAT determines levels of basic understanding of mathematical concepts, as well as each student’s ability to solve a wide range of problems.
Reading comprehension: In the reading test, students demonstrate their understanding of how words are used, how well they can answer questions based on reading passages, and how well they interpret information.
Tips and tools from a leading test-prep company
The comprehensive Cracking the PSAT/NMSQT contains ample tools and information to guide students every step of the way as they prepare to take the PSAT. From the two practice tests, extra math drills, and detailed strategies for studying to the guidance on mastering multiple-choice questions, this prep book has it all.
To help students make the most of their study time and sharpen their knowledge and test-taking skills, the best PSAT prep books have several key features.
PSAT details: This information serves as an introduction to the contents of the prep book along with information about what students should expect when taking the PSAT. It gives information about the best way to use the book to achieve the highest possible score on the test.
Studying and test-taking strategies: This information guides students on how to study for the test, as well as tips about the types of questions that will be on the test. Some prep books also offer advice for tackling tough questions, and the best ways to approach different question formats such as multiple choice.
Scholarship information: Since it’s possible for some high-scoring students to earn National Merit Scholarships, many prep books discuss these awards and the requirements to receive them.
Test section details: Here, students can learn more about what to expect in each test category. For example, most prep books contain a chapter or two about a range of mathematical concepts and the different types of problems that could be on the PSAT.
Practice tests: These very important study tools allow students to check their knowledge and progress as they prepare for the PSAT. The best PSAT prep books contain more than one practice test and details about when and how to take them.
Drills: In addition to practice tests, some prep books contain drills in different subjects. Some of these include sample questions similar to those that may appear on the actual test. These study tools are especially useful for students who are having difficulty in a particular subject by providing added practice for acquiring more knowledge.
Answers and explanations: Most PSAT prep books provide the answers to practice questions to help students see what they got right, as well as the questions that stumped them. Additionally, a thorough prep book also includes detailed explanations about the answers, which adds another level of studying to help students find and work on any weak areas.
Consider investing in more than one PSAT prep book. While the concepts are similar, each book varies a bit when it comes to information and studying tools.
If you have difficulty with reading or find working with numbers challenging, be sure to spend extra time on your weakest area when studying your PSAT prep book.
Managing your study time for the PSAT will help keep you from getting overwhelmed by the amount of material. Starting several months in advance, break your study time down into sections, focus on your weak spots, and take needed breaks as you go.
Another user-friendly feature of PSAT prep books is that most are available at a price to fit most budgets. You can expect to pay between $7 and $50 for a PSAT prep book.
Inexpensive: You can find a budget-friendly PSAT prep book for as little as $7 to $15.
Mid-range: Don’t worry if your budget is a bit tight because prep books that cost between $15 and $40 also offer detailed test materials.
Expensive: Expect to find the most in-depth prep books complete with drills and practice tests in the $40 to $50 range.
Test-prep help at a bargain price
Barron’s affordable PSAT prep book offers students a broad overview of the test, as well as two practice tests. Packed with study advice, test-taking tips in each category, and detailed explanations, it’s a excellent tool to help students achieve the highest scores possible. Also includes information about the National Merit Scholar program.
Don’t panic. Try not to feel overwhelmed by the volume of information available in most PSAT prep books. It may seem like a lot, but once you set a structured study plan, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to master reading and reviewing your guide.
Prepare for regular tests in school. Another way you can start preparing for the PSAT now is by taking extra time to study for tests and exams in school. This strategy is not only helpful to your grades but it will also improve your testing skills, from studying to taking them.
Do your homework. Don’t underestimate the importance of doing any homework assigned by your teachers. This will help you understand materials and master knowledge about topics that could very well end up on the PSAT.
Q. Will my son be allowed to use a calculator when he takes the PSAT?
A. While there are portions of the PSAT math testing section that are taken without the help of a calculator, there is also a section in which the use of calculators is allowed.
Q. How important are the practice tests included in many PSAT prep books?
A. Taking a practice test helps a student understand how well he or she knows different subjects and materials. It also provides a feel for what it will be like to actually take the PSAT. In addition, taking a practice test in advance of the real deal is very likely to help curb test-taking anxiety.
Q. I’m a freshman this year, but I’m already thinking about ways to prepare for the PSAT. What are some things I can do now to get ready to take the test when the time comes?
A. While you have some time before you take the PSAT, it certainly isn’t too soon to prepare yourself so you can maximize your chance of getting a high score. You can start today by studying a variety of PSAT prep books to see possible questions. Also, engaging in your classes, asking questions of your teachers when you don’t understand a topic, and studying hard are some other steps you can take now that will pay off in the future.