Q&A: What is a good amount of studying a day for the PSAT?

Matt Larriva
Mar 09, 2020
Home » Blog » Q&A: What is a good amount of studying a day for the PSAT?

I like your forethought. Good for you. I’m going to challenge some of the assumptions in your question’s premise before I answer.

First, the PSAT is not a good diagnostic test. I know this is confusing because it markets itself as such, but empirical, I can tell you students score about 100 points higher on the PSAT than they do on the SAT.

That is, if you took the PSAT on Saturday and the SAT on Sunday, I would wager your PSAT score would be about 100 points higher.

This is because the PSAT tries to answer the question: what would I get on the SAT if I took it as a Junior? 

But it does a very poor job of this because:

  1. it is difficult to project scores into the future
  2. the PSAT is shorter, and half the challenge of the SAT is the length of the test
  3. students take the PSAT in their own high school while the SAT is usually proctored at a different high school. That psychological shift in the familiar versus the unfamiliar has massive impacts on a student’s score.

No one should be ‘just trying to take [a test] as a diagnostic’

The PSAT and the SAT, when officially proctored remain on your record forever.

Even though some colleges allow ScoreChoice (allowing you to just send your best scores) many will request to see your entire testing history. There is no reason to put an official permanent score on record when you know it will not be your best showing.

If you want to get a baseline for your SAT score, then take a SAT practice test (downloadable from The CollegeBoard’s site) in a realistic setting (all at once, out side of the home, at 8AM).

How much should you study for the SAT?

This depends on your starting score and your target score. If your starting score is a 1400 and your starting score is 1000 then you probably have not taken some of the requisite math that you need for the test, or you are not reading at the level of the test: you would do better to focus on your high school curriculum which will naturally teach you some of what you need to know.

If your score is 1300 and your target is 1400, then I would recommend about an hour a day, for 2–3 months—but of course this assumes that you’re studying correctly.

A tutor can help you with this and can make your point-gains faster.

Will you get accepted?

Find out how likely you are to get accepted based on your GPA, test scores, and even extracurricular activities. Then, get custom recommendations for how to improve your odds – completely for free on CollegeVine.

Will you get accepted?

Find out how likely you are to get accepted based on your GPA, test scores, and even extracurricular activities. Then, get custom recommendations for how to improve your odds – completely for free on CollegeVine.