The PSAT Aftermath: From Missteps to Mastery

The PSAT results are almost in, and for many parents and students, it can be a whirlwind of emotions. But fret not, because every marked error is a golden opportunity in disguise. Think of the PSAT as a dress rehearsal for the main event. It’s where we catch the bloopers, fix them, and ensure the main event (the SAT) goes off without a hitch. Let’s transform these PSAT corrections into a robust strategy for the SAT this spring.


A first look at the digital testing era

You’ve just witnessed a significant shift in standardized testing. Your student’s recent PSAT wasn’t just a regular trial—it was a glimpse into the future of testing. Standardized tests are moving towards a digital format, with the SAT making its digital debut this coming March. Adjusting to this new format will be a learning curve for many. Here are some key details your student likely noticed this go-around:


The digital interface: It’s a game-changer. No more flipping through pages. With a single click, questions come and go. But with this convenience comes a learning curve. It’s all about mastering the interface. Recognize where the buttons are, how to flag a question for review, and most importantly, how to stay on track without getting lost in the digital maze. Your student’s best bet is practice using the interface with a free digital practice exam.


Adaptive scoring: Depending on a student’s performance in the initial sections, the subsequent English and math sections may vary in difficulty. However, it’s essential to note that attempting to gauge performance mid-test can be misleading and counterproductive. The focus should be on tackling each question to the best of their ability, without trying to second-guess the system.  


Digital requirements and support: While the new SAT is digital, it won’t be conducted remotely. Students will take the exam at designated schools or testing centers. Preparation is paramount; students should bring a fully-charged device. Also, it’s prudent to bring along a charger for backup. In the event of any technical hiccups, fear not: each testing center will have a dedicated technician on-site during the exams to provide immediate assistance and troubleshooting.


Embracing the change: Like all changes, this will take getting used to. But remember, the essence remains the same: showcasing knowledge. The medium might have changed, but the mission hasn’t. As we prepare your student for upcoming exams, our strategy will evolve, but our goal remains unwavering: excellence.


Leveraging PSAT insights for the upcoming Digital SAT this spring

The recent PSAT serves not only as a sneak peak into the new digital format, but also as a tool in understanding the strengths and gaps in your student’s knowledge. As we transition towards the Digital SAT this March, it’s essential to analyze the PSAT scores and adapt our strategies accordingly. Here are some tips on using PSAT test corrections to inform a strong performance on the upcoming Digital SAT.


Gaps in knowledge: Let’s face it, there are some concepts your student either forgot or simply hasn’t learned. Whenever my students and I run into these, I get excited. Why? Because we know exactly what we need to focus on. “I have no idea what to do” is one of my favorite phrases in a tutoring session. Of course, if you don’t know what sort of problem you’re dealing with, you’re in trouble. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to identify question types.


Identifying question types: Recognizing the type of question in front of you is foundational. In math, is it a linear equation, a quadratic, or perhaps a system of equations? In English, is the question asking about the main idea, tone, or textual evidence? Here are some common question types to keep an eye out for on the SAT:


  • Linear equations: Look out for y = mx + b. If it’s a word problem, identify a starting point (b) and some constant rate of change (m).
  • Quadratics: These often take the shape of ax^2 + bx + c = 0. For word problems, hints like “maximum height” or “thrown upward” might be indicative.
  • Systems of equations: Usually, you’ll be given more than one equation, and you’ll be asked to solve for multiple variables. Phrases like “two items with different prices” or “combined total” can signal this type of problem.


  • Grammar and punctuation: Look out for the phrase “conventions of Standard English” in the question. This indicates you should focus on sentence structure, verb tense, and punctuation marks.
  • Words in context: The magic phrase here is “most logical and precise word or phrase.” This might require you to choose the best word to fit a given context or interpret a word’s meaning based on the surrounding text.
  • Command of evidence: These questions ask about details from the text, often using phrases like “according to the passage.” The key here is to go back and locate the evidence directly from the passage.

Rush to judgment: Speed is a double-edged sword. Being quick can be advantageous, but hasty decisions can lead to errors. Like confusing area with perimeter, or overlooking the crucial word “NOT” in a question. These aren’t signs of a lack of understanding, but rather an indication of the need for increased focus. Taking structured notes on scratch paper or using digital annotation tools can act as anchors, ensuring that such errors become the exception rather than the norm. Of course, paying attention can also slow you down—which might be its own issue.


Skip ahead, then circle back: For many students, the real issue often isn’t the content but the clock. Time management during exams can make or break a score, and one of the best things your student can do is remember to skip questions. Encounter a math question that seems like it’ll take an eternity? Skip! For the English section, start with the grammar and punctuation questions. The reading-type questions, which can be time-consuming, can wait a bit. The art of skipping and circling back ensures that every moment is spent efficiently.


The journey from PSAT to SAT is a transformative one, and while the landscape of testing evolves, the core principles of learning and growth persist. As we usher in the digital era of standardized tests, adaptability and a thorough understanding of the new terrain are crucial. Yet, amidst these changes, let us not forget the heart of the matter: Every mistake is a lesson, every challenge an opportunity, and every test a stepping stone towards academic mastery. Onward to SAT success!


For insights and into your student’s PSAT scores and what to do next, be sure to attend our FREE parent webinar, “PSAT, Now What?”
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Interested in learning more about how we can help your student prepare for their upcoming Digital SAT this spring?

By Robert Brundage
Robert is a tutor and Creative Content Manager at Revolution Prep. Off-duty, he enjoys being silly with his daughter, trying out new recipes, and playing board games with his wife and friends.