PSAT Test Day Checklist: 7 Tips to Help You Prepare
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- High-scoring juniors on the PSAT may qualify for National Merit Scholarships.
- Test day can be stressful, but you can take steps to minimize these feelings.
- The College Board provides a list of what students can and cannot bring into the testing room.
While 3.76 million students took the PSAT in 2020, this number fell to 1.85 million in 2021, according to the College Board. The number of students taking both the PSAT and SAT has fallen due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a rise in test-optional admission policies.
However, the PSAT may still be a good option for high school students as it serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test and provides insight into how students are likely to perform in Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
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Taking the PSAT can be stressful, but learners can take steps to feel better when test day roles around.
What Time Does the PSAT Test Start and End?
Most students who take the PSAT do so at their own high school rather than at a testing center.
Schools have a bit more flexibility when scheduling the PSAT as opposed to the SAT. Most high schools start the test on the early side at around 8:30 a.m., but some schools start the test as late as 10:30 a.m.
Administrators typically split students into different testing groups, some of which may have staggered start times. Students should check with the testing center or their school to learn about the specifics of start and end times for PSAT test day.
What to Bring on PSAT Test Day
Students can use the PSAT checklist below to help them remember needed personal belongings and test materials.
Two No. 2 Pencils With Erasers: You will use these to fill in bubbles for each answer, so it's important to bring a backup.
Approved Calculator: The College Board provides a calculator policy to help students figure out which types are acceptable. It's also a good idea to bring extra batteries.
Eligibility Letter for Students With Disabilities: Students with disabilities can request accommodations, but they must bring their eligibility letter on test day.
Mask: Some schools and test centers may still require examinees to wear a mask, so make sure you bring one just in case.
Bag (Optional): You'll probably want a bag to carry your things to and from the testing location.
Watch (Optional): Smartwatches aren't allowed, but an analog watch can help you keep track of time during the test.
Drink and Snack (Optional): Though drinks and snacks are not allowed in the testing room, you can enjoy them during the break.
How to Prepare the Night Before the PSAT
The night before the PSAT is a crucial time to get in the right headspace and feel confident walking into the exam the next morning.
Keep the Studying to a Minimum
Students may be tempted to take one last PSAT practice test or spend the night before the big exam studying, but last-minute cramming can lead to negative effects. Instead, spend the night doing something that feels relaxing and restful for better results.
Pack Your PSAT Materials
Rather than waiting until test day to gather all your materials, pack your bags the night before. Using the PSAT checklist, you can ensure you don't forget any critical materials and don't feel rushed the next day.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Rest provides the opportunities for our brains and bodies to recharge, a critical need before any big exam. As much as possible, you should try to keep to your normal bedtime and wake-up time. Aim to get at least eight hours of sleep.
What to Do the Morning of the PSAT
The morning before the PSAT can seem a little chaotic, but test-takers can take steps to make the time feel less stressful.
Eat a Nutritious Breakfast
Eating a nutritious breakfast filled with protein, fat, and carbs can help wake up your brain and body, preparing you for the strain of a multi-hour test and ensuring you don't crash in the middle of it. Some healthy options include warm or overnight oats, yogurt and granola, or eggs and toast.
Stick to Your Morning Routine
You should follow your normal morning routine as much as possible, as this will help create a sense of normalcy and keep anxiety at bay. Try to wake up at the same time, have a normal breakfast, and stay calm. If you typically drink more than one cup of coffee, consider replacing it with decaf.
The PSAT takes just under three hours to complete, so the last thing you want to do is wear uncomfortable clothes on test day. Try to put together a soft, roomy, and comfortable outfit so you can focus solely on the exam.
It's also a good idea to bring a jacket in case the room is cold.
Get to School Early
Even if you're testing at your school, it's important to arrive at least 15 minutes before the test starts to sign in, store your bag, and find your seat. If you're taking the exam at a different school or testing center, leave even earlier to account for traffic and an unfamiliar area.
Frequently Asked Questions About PSAT Test Day
Do you need a photo ID or school code for the PSAT?
If you are not testing at your normal school, you will need to bring a valid photo identification issued by your school or the state. If you do not have access to these types of IDs, you can use the College Board's student ID form.
Because ID requirements depend on the testing location, make sure you understand where the test will be held long in advance. Getting an ID or completing the ID form can take some time.
Can I bring my phone when I take the PSAT?
No mobile phones are allowed during the PSAT or during the break, as students could use them to look up answers, record speaking, photograph the test, or otherwise break testing rules. Students must leave their phones in their backpacks secured outside the testing room until the exam is complete.
Students caught with a phone in their possession during the exam or break period will be asked to leave the school, and their test scores will be invalid.
What can you not bring to the PSAT?
The College Board provides a comprehensive list of prohibited items that students should fully review before testing day. You cannot wear a smartwatch or bring a laptop, Bluetooth device, smartphone, or any other personal computing device into the testing room.
Additionally, students can only use No. 2 pencils and must leave pens, highlighters, mechanical pencils, and colored pencils in their backpack. No books or reference materials can be brought into the room, and the proctor will provide any needed scratch paper.