Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Do you do any PSAT prep in your classes? And if you do, how do you do it in a way that helps all kids stay invested?

I decided recently to give kids time in class to go over their PSAT score reports, which have all of the questions and item-level analysis (including a check if they had the question correct, an "o" if they had skipped the question, or a comparison of their answer versus the correct answer). They were supposed to go over them in groups, and with a partner compare the questions that they had either omitted or gotten wrong, to see if they can now figure out why the correct answer is as indicated. (Since I figured that it was unrealistic to expect my freshmen to be going over these on their own at home, honors kids or otherwise.)

Anyway, long story short, kids hated it. Many of them weren't invested because they had missed so many questions on the original test that they felt very discouraged. Others felt like it was irrelevant, since their understanding of the PSATs wouldn't impact their grade in my class. What should I do?? I feel like this stuff should be super important, but I have trouble getting my regular (non-honors) kids to take them seriously. :(


  1. I teach a College Test Prep Class and to keep the kids interested I have them convert their PSAT score to a predicted SAT score. They have an homework assignment to then look up average admission scores for colleges they think they're interested in and compare their predicted SAT score to the college admission score. This is usually eye opening to the students and they reflect on the areas they need to improve on before they take their official SAT in 11th/12th grade.

  2. Good idea, thanks! Also, I need to re-think the format of letting them work in groups on the PSAT thing. There has to be a better way. A few kids were way more focused today when I gave them a copy of my own PSAT workbook (with all work shown/scribbled in), and they were looking through it trying to figure out what I did to arrive at the answers for every problem.

  3. Is my understanding correct that you'd like your students to start preparing now for the SAT, so that in two years they’ll score higher on the PSAT?

    I think it's important to make this a daily practice for the class then, rather than a one day let's figure out how to do all of the problems that we got wrong: for those who got numerous problems incorrect, it sounds like the review session became information overload. I hate to say this, but another reason why the students may have hated the review is because they were forced to share their scores with their classmates and felt embarrassed if they did poorly.

    Perhaps you can have your students bring in the score reports tomorrow and have them complete a scantron by penciling in

    A-got correct answer
    C-got wrong

    for each question. Using the summary scantron report, you could then spend a few minutes each day going over a couple problems that more than half the class skipped or got wrong.

    Just my two cents.

  4. Hey Paul,

    Thanks for the feedback! I agree that consistency (reviewing daily) is a biggie if I want to see real improvement in their scores. I'm not committed to the idea of doing daily PSAT practice in class, because I feel a little bit like we already don't have a lot of time in class to cover the regular curriculum. :( I wanted the kids to go over their mistakes, partly so that they can build some urgency to start studying on their own for the SATs -- but I guess that's just me being hopeful.

    Actually, some kids did take it very seriously, and were looking actively at their mistakes in class. I am just concerned about the rest. Not sure if the embarrassment was a major issue here (many kids had folded their scores back and were only looking at the item-level analysis; others were openly sharing their scores), but that's always a possibility, I guess.

    Anyway, I'll have to think more about how to do this better. Thanks for your input!

  5. Hey Mimi,

    You mean you don’t have unlimited time to teach everything you want?!

    One idea I’ve been exploring, though yet to implement, is to have my students do additional practice on their own online. I’m sure there’s plenty of sites out there, but the one I found that’s free (for now?) seems to have some good features:

    -you set up accountants for your students and issue ids
    -students take a diagnostic test on the concepts you specify (algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2)
    -students get customized practice sessions on the areas they need help on
    -there are detailed explanations for each solution and tutorial videos
    -once a week, you get emailed a progress report of all your students (who practiced and how they did)

    I hadn’t considered it for SAT practice, but I don’t see why you or I couldn’t use it for that. . . now YOU have me thinking of ways to help my freshman start preparing for the SAT. Keep up the good work!

    PS: Like I said, there’s probably plenty of other similar sites out there, and I haven’t road-tested it on students yet so can’t give it a thumbs up or down, but in case it helps you or others, the name of the site is TenMarks.

  6. Mimi,
    I'm facing the same dilemma with ACT scores. What I've done is just incorporate two problems a day on my bell ringer/ do now along with two review problems from the previous lesson. I never tell them that they are ACT questions and I try to keep it kind of informal but this way I know they are practicing every day, they are familiar with the wording and set up, they are finding ways to eliminate better answers and be better guessers, and it doesn't feel like I am wasting valuable time. Also, I set my timer for 4 minutes and make them work silently before having them compare answers with their groups- so hopefully the silently timed part is somewhat similar to test day environment.