Juniors and many sophomores will be taking the PSAT on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at school.  Others will take the test Saturday.  At the same time, many schools opt to have underclassmen take the PLAN test.  Both tests are terrific practice for future ACT and SAT college entrance exams.

Full details about the PSAT can be found on our post, PSAT and National Merit Basics.  Reviewing important details about each test just before test day will help.


This is the little sister to the SAT taken later in the junior year. Number one strategy: don’t blind guess!  You find yourself running out of time? Resist the urge to fill in the remaining bubbles.  When the SAT and PSAT are scored, students gain one raw point for every correctly answered question, however they lose 1/4 of a point for every incorrectly answered question.  Unanswered questions don’t affect your score.

While you are permitted to have a calculator, no question requires a calculator.  Actually, with our test prep we find using a calculator for simple questions can slow you down.  Discern wisely when to punch in those numbers and be certain you’re using an approved calculator.

Don’t be surprised when you come upon the Student Produced Responses on the math – otherwise known as the grid-in.  These ten questions are the only ones not multiple-choice on the test.  Solve and grid-in your answer.

While there is a Writing section to the test, you won’t do any writing.  No essay here. Just rely on your knowledge of grammar and writing and YOUR EAR!  If it sounds really off, it probably is.


Taking the PLAN in 9th or 10th grade prior to the ACT is terrific practice.  It has the same main four sections as the ACT: English, math, reading and writing.  Just like on the PSAT, there is no essay to write.

The PLAN and ACT are oppositie of the PSAT and SAT when it comes to guessing.  There is no penalty when a question is answered incorrectly, so ALWAYS take a stab at it.  Completely unsure?  Guess!  Running out of time? Guess!  Just don’t leave anything blank on the test.

Calculators are allowed here to, but don’t overuse.  The PLAN calculator policy can be found here.

While virtually every school will give the PSAT to at least their juniors, the PLAN is not as widely used. That’s unfortunate LEAP sees it as valuable practice.  Therefore, LEAP offers the PLAN a couple of times per year at our site.  Just ask!

General Strategies for Both

Even if you don’t complete practice problems, at least look at the types of questions you will encounter.  There is online pratice available on both websites.  PSAT and PLAN

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Bring several sharpened pencils
  • Bring a watch with a timer, but don’t set the alarm!
  • Move on to easier questions if you are struggling
  • Don’t stress – these are practice

Good Luck!