Getting Ready for the October PSAT Math Portion

If you teach a sophomore or junior level math class, then you know in October each year the juniors take the PSAT/NMSQT and the sophomores take the PSAT 10. Although these are both preliminary scholastic aptitude tests, they are important for students. Not only could students receive scholarships if they do well on the assessments, but students can see where they stand in their college readiness skills.

What is the role of the educator in all of this? We are here to help our students be prepared! Yes, on a daily basis we are teaching content and skills that are tested, but when is the last time you looked at a PSAT or SAT? Some questions on these tests are straight forward, but others are not. It will help your students if you are aware of what types of questions will be asked and how they will be asked.

The math content on the test is broken down like this:

3 Main Areas (Chosen because they appear in many college majors and careers)

  • Heart of Algebra (Linear equations and systems)
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis (Using data, statistics and numeracy to solve and analyze problems)
  • Passport to Advanced Math (Manipulating complex equations)

A 4th area that can also show up on the test is Geometry and Trigonometry. College Board does not put these with the main areas for some reason, so I’m assuming it does not appear as often or isn’t the main focus.

To prepare our students, not only do we want to review the necessary content, but we should prepare them by using calculator and non calculator practice. We can also time our students because all the tests are timed on the PSAT.

The math test is broken into a 25 minute no calculator portion with 17 questions. Four of those questions are grid questions. The 2nd math portion where the students can use a calculator is a 45 minute test with 31 questions and 4 of those are grid questions.

I have created many different practices for taking the PSAT and SAT. One of my favorites that I think would be useful to students is a practice that can be broken into a 5 week plan and used as bell ringers. The topics covered are: Systems, Quadratic Factoring and Solutions, Simplifying Radicals, Polynomials, Measures of Central Tendency, Slope, Distance, Inequalities, Parallel Lines and Transversals, Area of Circles and Triangles, Volume, Special Right Triangles, and Setting Up and Solving Equations.

The worksheets are layed out where the front side is just like the back of the worksheet. The front is practiced with the help of the teacher and students, but the back is done independently and is timed. How much better do you think your students would do if they had this kind of practice for several weeks before the test?

If you would like to see this for yourself, click the product picture below to check it out in my store.

Even if you don’t use my products, please find ways to help your students become familiar with the test. Start having conversations with your classes about how important it is to do well on theses tests. Encourage your students to seek information on prospective colleges and find out what the required SAT scores are for admission. I found a chart with score ranges for 360 colleges. It was written in 2016 but was updated last year. Good luck! May your students do awesome on the upcoming college readiness tests!


Published by


Math teacher dedicated to sharing teacher tips, ideas and resources.

One thought on “Getting Ready for the October PSAT Math Portion”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s