About the PSAT/SAT?

Question:Hi, I'm a sophomore and I'll be taking the PSAT in my junior year. This year I'm taking the practice test, and I want to be REALLY prepared, plus then, i'll know my weak points. I heard about the national merit scholar thing, and i REALLY REALLY need a scholarship (and so does the rest of the population LoL). But i seriously need one to get into college. So, I was thinking about it, and here's some questions i have:
-What is the format of the PSAT and SAT?
-What the heck is critical reading?? (What does it include?)
-How do I study for the critical reading portion? (And all other portions for that matter--and i mean EVERY portion, even from the SAT)
-What are some AWESOME ways to study for both the PSAT and SAT? (What books should i get/free prep websites?)
-How much can a scholarship be worth from the national merit thing from the PSAT?
-Does the national merit thing give away scholarships to good SAT scores as well?
-To get a scholarship--continued below.

For the format of the SAT and PSAT, check out College Board’s (the company that does the SAT) website: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/test... The SAT consists of 10 separate timed “sections”, with the math, CR, and writing sections mixed (look at “test order” on that link). The PSAT is similar, except there’s no written essay in the writing section. http://www.collegeboard.com/parents/test... I don’t remember precisely how it’s set up (it’s been a while) but the questions are very similar to those on the SAT. Poke around on collegeboard, they have a lot of information about the different types of questions asked.
Critical reading tests your reading comprehension and your vocabulary. http://www.collegeboard.com/parents/test... You have to read short passages and answer questions about them (some on content, some vocabulary in context, some rearranging sentences to improve them, and so on); the rest of it is pure complete-the-sentence vocabulary questions.
For the critical reading portion, the best way to improve is to READ—read on a regular basis, and read harder material. Anything you have to actively think about as you read it will improve your reading comprehension, and any higher-level reading material will help both your vocabulary and your grammar. Just reading is kind of a slow way to improve, but the critical reading and writing sections are harder to study for directly because English skills are generally something you have to learn over time.
Keep taking practice tests to get used to the kinds of questions they ask. For vocabulary, do whatever works for you. Do a search online, there’re a lot of good vocabulary-building sites out there: satvocab.com has cute little things to help you remember words. Another way to learn vocabulary is to look at Latin roots, which is a good plan for a few reasons. First, a lot of the higher-level words that the SAT seems to like have strong Latin roots. With Latin, you can memorize one word (say, mittere - to send) and then look at a whole group of words derived from that word (omit, emit, missionary [the past participle of “mittere” is “missus”, so many “mis” words are derived from mittere too], intermittent, etc.). Also, then you’re better able to figure out the meaning of words you’ve never seen before (emissary or concomitant, for example) if you know a few Latin words. The more basic Latin roots you know (mittere, facere, venire, etc.) along with the prefixes and suffixes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/affix... ) the better you’ll get at figuring out the meaning of words you don’t know and eliminating wrong answer choices. This site has lists of some Latin derivatives and their meanings: http://www.geocities.com/gene_moutoux/la... . Anyway, that’s just another way to improve your vocabulary.
The writing portion of the PSAT, since it doesn’t have the essay, is purely grammar. Again, reading higher-level novels or articles will improve your grammar. Start actively paying attention to your grammar as you speak or write, and try to think about how you form sentences. There are different types of grammar questions on the test, which you can look at here: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/test... . Review basic grammar concepts, and practice using and thinking in proper grammar. Pay special attention to subject-verb agreement—I noticed that on the SAT a lot, probably because it’s something that is very often confused in spoken English grammar (things like “where’s my keys” when it should be “where’re” or “where are”; using “they” and “their” where it should be the singular “he or she” and “his or hers”, and so on).
The math on the SAT is easier to study for than the English sections. Take a practice test to identify what you specifically need work on, and find specific information to help you in those areas. The math on the SAT (and PSAT) is all about knowing the right KIND of math, since they only cover specific areas in math, and about getting used to the way they ask questions. The SAT tests a certain type of reasoning, so the more practice questions you do, the better you’ll get at it.
College Board has a lot of preparation material you can use—they have practice questions, information about the tests, a full-length practice test you can print off and take. http://www.collegeboard.com/student/test... They also have a “Question of the Day”, which I recommend— with that, even if you don’t want to study intensively every day (and who does?) you can still take a few minutes a day to look at a question and think about the test. For other review material online, just do a search—there’s a lot out there for free, and the more practice you get from any source, the better. Get a test prep book—different things work for different people, so there is no one “best” prep book. Use a SAT book to study for the PSAT too—the PSAT is made to be a little bit easier than the SAT, but it asks the same type of questions. The book produced by College Board has the best practice tests, I think, but from what I’ve heard it doesn’t have as good review material as some of the other major names (Princeton Review, Barron’s, Kaplan, etc.). If you like, your local library might have some of these review books so you can check one out and go through part of it to see if you like it, then if you don’t feel like it’s working for you or you don’t like the way it’s set up you can go get a different one.
About National Merit:
The PSAT is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship, as you know.
The cutoff score to qualify is different for each state and changes from year to year (since it’s based on percentages in each state). To get an idea of what you need to aim for, you can look at this site to see what the selection index cutoff has been for your state in the past few years: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/show... .
But the PSAT only qualifies you as a “National Merit Semifinalist”. You then have to fill out a bunch of paperwork— information you give them includes your GPA, what classes you’ve taken, a personal essay, one recommendation letter, extracurricular activities and leadership positions you may have had; you also have to take the SAT and send them scores from that. After that you become a “Finalist”—about 95% of Semifinalists become Finalists, so I’m pretty sure that step is just about filling out the paperwork right, lol. Then they really look at the information you gave them—especially your SAT score—and only about half of the Finalists become National Merit Scholars. You can find out more about it on the NMSC website: http://www.nationalmerit.org/ .
The money you get for the scholarship, of course, depends on what college or university you’re going to. Some of the more prestigious schools don’t actually have National Merit packages, because they don’t do any merit-based scholarships. (There are three “types” of National Merit Scholarship: http://www.nationalmerit.org/nmsp.php#me... .) I’m not sure how it works at other schools, but where I’m going (OU), if you list this school as your first choice as a Finalist, they guarantee you their National Merit package. To get an idea of what it entails, you can look at what OU gives National Merit Scholars: http://go2.ou.edu/national_scholars/nonr... . I think OU’s gives more than a lot of schools for NM, though, because I run into a lot of NM scholars who say they never even considered OU until they heard about the scholarship here, lol.
General test taking tips:
Always make sure you know exactly what you need to take: pencils with good erasers, a good calculator (I swear by my TI-83 Plus), your ID, and your admission ticket. The more prepared you FEEL, the better you'll do.
TAKE FOOD! The first few times I took the SAT I was starving by the end. You usually have a break in the middle of the test during which you can eat. Take chewing gum or hard candy, too. I’m not sure if it’s true that gum helps you concentrate or that mint aids thinking, but I’ve always liked having something to chew on while taking tests.
DON’T read the instructions at the beginning of each section! I promise they don’t say anything important beyond what the proctor of the test will have already said, and you need that time.
What I always did, though it may not help everyone: start each section at the end. First, this gives you a very tangible goal; you might forget how many questions are in a section, but if start and the end you’re counting down, and you always know exactly how many questions you have left. Second, especially in the math section on both tests, it’s been proven that the harder questions are at the end, so doing the test backwards gets the hard ones out of the way, and you can GAIN confidence while you’re working, rather than losing it as you get to the harder ones. But there is more of a risk of getting off on the numbering if you do this…
For the reading passages, skim the questions before you start reading, so you can know what to look for as you read and don’t have to spend as much time rereading.
And the basics: eliminate wrong choices. It helps some people to physically mark through the obviously wrong choices in narrowing down the answers. On the math questions, it’s sometimes faster to just plug in the answers to see which one’s right than to actually work through the formulas. Sleep well the night before, and if you’re someone who needs time to wake up, get up a little early so you’re fully awake by test time.
For the PSAT and National Merit, I really recommend you go ahead and take the SAT BEFORE you take the PSAT—you can take the SAT as often as you like (and only your highest score really matters) but you only have one chance to qualify for National Merit, so treat the SAT as a practice for the PSAT. A lot of doing well on these tests is about KNOWING the test, so get as familiar with it as possible before you take the PSAT junior year. You’ve got plenty of time to prepare!
Good luck!
Personally, I would take the PSAT Sophmore year. Then you have all of Junior year to take the SAT, and Senior year to retake if you need to.

-format is multiple choice broken up into different sections. Look at a practice test to see what it's like
-reading and interpreting what you read. they give you a passage, you answer questions relating to that passage
-barrons or collegeboard
-it depends on the school
-no, national merit is only for PSAT

-scores for NM are different for each state, but usually the lowest is around 220.
First of all nobody NEEDS a scholarship. If you can't afford a higher education, the college that you enroll in will provide you with some sort of financial aid.

All that you need to know about these test can be found on collegeboard.com.

How to study - Just do lots of practice tests so you see what kinds of things show up often. That's all you can really do. For the essay, however, pick a few books, events, and people in advance. The topics for the essay section (SAT only) are so general that you can choose almost anything that you know well.

Format - Just do some practice tests and you'll see. The SAT begins with an essay. Afterward, you do alternating parts of the different sections, usually 25 minutes each.

Critical reading - You'll answer questions based on passages in your testing booklet. The passages can range from a few sentences to a comparison of two essays that total 1 page. There's also some vocab questions where you fill in a blank in a sentence.

Nat'l Merit Scholarships - I didn't get one, but I think they might be full. However, you need to have a score in the top 1% of all students, which is hard to do. The scholarship is awarded based on the performance of students compared to their fellow test-takers, so there's no minimum score for a scholarship. If students do particulary badly in a certain year, a lower score would get you the money. Otherwise, there are organizations that give indivual scholarships, but those are usually limited to African-American students only.

SAT scholarships - As far as I know, those kinds of scholarships are awarded by the colleges that accept you.

Basically, here's what you need to know: Study by doing lots of practice tests. (There are books filled with them.) You can get essentially any piece of information about the SAT at collegeboard.com. It's the official website of the organization that makes the SAT and it is where your score will first be posted, so it is a helpful, reliable source.
You need at least 2200 to get a scholarship on the PSAT. When I first took the SAT, my score was low in the mid 1700s but then I got the sat guide from TutorFox: http://www.tutorfox.com/satguide.html... and my score went up to 2190 (800 math, 760 writing, 630 reading). I highly recommend this guide for anyone wishing to get a higher SAT score.
From what i hear the format of the psat is just basically an overview of the math,english,science,etc that you learned in the past just to show how much you learned over the years.critical thinking is just an open ended question that makes you think alot think of it as a essay basically.A free prep website that would be really good for you would be number2.com they prep you for all test you would need to get into college.And also try sylvan. I'm not very sure about the scholarship you are talkin about but i do know that depending on what college you go to and your financial situation you can get alot of money from the college you are goin to attend.

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