Last-minute PSAT tips from National Merit Semifinalists

“PSAT” is one of those dreaded acronyms that starts to become particularly pressing around the beginning of junior year. This year, sophomores and juniors nationwide will sit for the standardized exam on Wed., Oct. 16. 


While not required for application to colleges and universities, the PSAT can serve as a good indicator of potential success on the SAT (which many universities accept in applications), and scoring well can make one eligible for scholarships, namely through the National Merit program. 


Below, several of this year’s National Merit Semifinalists (students who scored in the top 1% of seniors in the nation on last year’s PSAT) share their best last-minute tips for success on the PSAT—no studying involved.


“It sounds silly, but my biggest advice would be to get a lot of sleep and drink a lot of water going into the test. Catching minor mistakes is significantly easier when your body and mind are both healthy. Also, keep a good pace: skip questions you feel hesitant on and return to them at the end. Finally, try not to put too much pressure on yourself to excel on this one test. Just properly prepare for proficiency, have confidence in your abilities, and do the best you can. Life will go on regardless of your score.” – Andre Harte, 12


“I would just say take time to rest and relax a lot the night before and don’t stress about it. Standardized tests are less important than they seem and your score doesn’t define your intelligence. The night before and the morning of, it’s too late to prepare substantially (not that you necessarily need to) so just take some time to take care of yourself—get some rest, eat some comfort food, et cetera. For actually practical tips though, create a little bag with your calculator, ID, extra pencils, et cetera, so that you don’t forget anything in the morning and you can reuse it for the ACT or other tests.” – Caroline Skwara, 12


“The night before I would do anything that is not the PSAT—it doesn’t matter if you think it will help. If you are relaxed and not tired the day of, you will do the best [that] all your studying, or lack of, has prepared you for.” – Shaan Hershey, 12