The PSAT Math Section

Length Question Types
Two 25 Minute Sections 28 Multiple-Choice
10 Student Produced Responses (Grid-Ins)

Many students fear the PSAT Math Section more than any other. But there is no reason to feel that way. Just like the other sections, there are proven strategies for approaching the different kinds of math questions.

On the test, you'll see two question types: Multiple-Choice and Student Produced Responses (or Grid-Ins). Questions are arranged to gradually increase in difficulty, focusing on the topics of numbers and operations, Algebra I, functions, and Geometry.

PSAT Math Multiple-Choice Questions

On the PSAT Multiple-Choice questions in the Math Section, you'll be give five answers from which you'll need to choose the best one. It's pretty straightforward; but one way to save time is to memorize the directions:

Directions: For this section, solve each problem and decide which is the best of the choices given. Fill in the corresponding oval on the answer sheet. You may use any available space for scratchwork.

PSAT Math Grid-In Questions

The Grid-In section is more like the math tests you're used to taking at school. Rather than choosing your answer from five choices, you have to work through the problem and write whatever answer you came up with in the grid boxes on the answer sheet. Some Grid-in questions only have one correct answer, whereas others have several correct answers. There is no penalty for wrong answers on this section.

STRATEGY SESSION:
Kaplan's 4-Step Approach to PSAT Math Questions

STEP 1: Estimate the Question's Difficulty

PSAT Math questions are arranged in order of difficulty. Keep this in mind as you work through a set. On difficult questions, watch out for math traps. Hard questions are often written to be misleading, containing one or two answers that will seem to be right at first glance. Be careful of these easy answers for hard questions. They are there specifically to trick you. Make sure you always know what's being asked.

STEP 2: Read the Question Carefully

If you try to start solving the problem before reading the question all the way through, you may end up doing unnecessary work. A question can look straightforward; but read through it carefully as they often will have a slight twist.

STEP 3: Skip or Do

If you're totally clueless about a problem, circle it in your test booklet and move on. Spend your time on the problems you can solve; if there's time at the end of the section; go back to the ones you had trouble with. It's better to get two points from two less challenging problems than spend the same amount of time on one tricky question.

STEP 4: Look for the Fastest Approach

On an easy question, all the information you need to solve the problem may be provided in the question stem or in a diagram. Harder questions often hide the information. Look for shortcuts. Sometimes the obvious way of doing a problem is the long way. If the method you choose involves lots of calculating, look for another route. There's usually a shortcut you can use that won't involve tons of arithmetic.

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