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PSAT/NMSQT inside scoop: Khan Academy interviews the College Board

Taking the PSAT / NMSQT? Get study tips straight from the test creators. Our SAT coach, Dave, chats with Beth, a senior director at the College Board. Facebook Live Broadcast from October 2016.

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Video transcript

- Wireless connection. Hey. Are we broadcasting? Are we live? Adele, can you tell us? Are we alive? Having a little bit of trouble. I'm live, okay. Hi everybody. I'm Dave, the SAT coach for Kahn Academy and I'm here in New York City at the College Board office. It's a huge building downtown, amazing place, meeting everybody here has been great and we're gonna, tonight we're gonna talk about the PSAT/NMSQT with Beth. - Hi, I'm Beth, I work here at the College Board. I started out as an English teacher for 10th and 12th graders and then I came to the College Board 'cause I liked making tests so much, I wanted to do it all the time. So I worked in test development here. (laughs) Thanks for laughing at my joke and now I work in instruction and I get to talk about PSAT/NMSQT 'cause it's so closely tied to instruction. - Okay so what is the PSAT/NMSQT? Why do students take it? What's it for? What's the deal? - Okay so the PSAT/NMSQT is two hours and 45 minutes and NMSQT stands for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test so when you take this test, it puts you, makes you eligible for the National Merit Scholarship. It's like the SAT in the sense that it has an evidence-based reading and writing section and a math section and the evidence-based reading and writing section is made up of the reading test and the writing and language test and then you have the math test. - Okay. How long is it and when do students take it? - So it takes two hours and 45 minutes to take it and students take it mostly if you're in 10th or 11th grade, that's around when you would take it in the fall. So if you're watching this, you're probably taking it October 19th or you might be taking it earlier on Saturday, October 15th or Wednesday, November 2nd. - Okay so it's administered on Wednesdays at some schools and Saturdays at other schools. Should, is it important to study for this test? - I think for PSAT/NMSQT, the great news is that just taking it is like studying for the SAT or practicing for the SAT so that's great and just watching this is great. That's helping you get prepared. So congratulations on being a step ahead. You, it's a good idea probably to become familiar with the test in general and the directions, you know what the questions look like and you can do that on official SAT practice on kahnacademy.org or you can download a practice test on SAT.org. - Okay so what you're saying is that it's probably a good idea to figure out what we're gonna see on test day so if there are instructions for the reading section or instructions for the writing and language test, or instructions for the math test, it's better to know what it's gonna look like and know what you're gonna be expected to do on test day so you don't spend time on test day figuring out what you're supposed to do. So some examples of that are on the writing and language test, there are questions that just have sections of a passage underlined and what you're supposed to do is fix that thing. Like how do those work, how do those work? - That's the official, yes, exactly. - Fix the thing. - Sometimes you'll see a question that looks like it doesn't have a question and the question number, you can find it in the passage and what you're being asked to do is either choose the most effective or correct version of the sentence. So one option would be no change if it's most effective or most correct how it is or the other options will give you choices on how to make it better. - Okay cool. So we're gonna talk a little bit more after a few more questions about specific things to think about in each section. But first I want to ask you, what are a few of the key benefits of taking the PSAT/NMSQT? - Well like I mentioned before, taking it is great practice for the SAT and it also puts you in the running, not just for the National Merit Scholarship but a lot of other scholarships, millions of dollars in scholarships, like the Jack Kent Cooke or Hispanic Scholarship Fund. There's lot of others and you can look those up on SAT.org. - So as I understand that, there's like more than 150 million dollars of scholarship money available for those students who score high and so if you take the PSAT/NMSQT, you might be able to qualify for money to help put towards your college education. - Right. - Okay. So let's see. Let's talk for a second about the reading test. Is there anything in particular that you think students need to know about how to approach the reading test? - I think the most important thing to realize about the reading test is that everything you need to know is in the passage. The test doesn't require any prior knowledge which means you don't have to know a lot about the topic or have all this other information. The answer to every question is right there in the passage. - Okay so it's called evidence-based reading and writing? - Right good point. - So what does that mean, evidence-based? - It means that the best answer will have support in the passage. Sometimes that will even be the question. A question will ask you to choose evidence from the passage that supports your answer to the question before, but even the ones that don't have that follow up question, there will be evidence in the passage that indicates which answer is the best answer. - Okay so one of the things that I've spoken about in previous livestreams is that in the reading section, one answer is right and the others are wrong so the reason that the others are wrong is because they don't have evidence to support them and the right answer, if you have a toss up and you say like oh these two answers both look good, if you have time, you should go back and find and choose the one that actually has evidence to support it. - Yeah I would do that and I would also if you're choosing between two answers, go back to the question. Usually the question is specific enough that it's pointing to one answer more than the other. - Okay that's great. And how about a helpful tip on the writing and language test? - The writing and language test, I would say what's important to know there is that everything, all the questions there are also based on a passage so context is really important and that may mean the sentence, that may mean the surrounding sentences, that may mean a paragraph or even the whole passage. - Okay so the writing language test is the one that's, people sometimes think of as the grammar section? They have the little bits and you have to, the fix it questions and but it's not all little fix it questions. A lot of it's much more involved about understanding how the paragraph works, how the passage works as a whole, so it's important, if I may give a piece of advice, it's important to keep in mind that, there are gonna be questions that, there may be questions that say like, what, this sentence, we want to think about putting this sentence into the passage. Should we put the sentence in? If so, where should we put it? So if you? - Or why should we put it there? - Or why should we put it there? Yes we should, why? If no we shouldn't, why not? So it's important to actually understand what the passage is saying, not just go from like grammar piece to grammar piece to grammar piece? - Right and actually a little more than half of the questions will deal with things like development, logic, support, evidence, those kinds of things, and a little less than half are gonna be grammar and language use but even those you want to have the context of the passage or the sentence, surrounding sentences that might be a question about a pronoun and to really understand what the pronoun is referencing, you need the sentence before. - Got it. Okay let's move on to the math test. Anything to offer math test? Are we allowed to use calculators on this test? - Good question. The math test has two sections. So there's a calculator section and a no calculator section. So it'll be pretty clear when you're taking the test when you're allowed to use a calculator and when you're not. Even on the calculator section, some questions, it might be faster to answer them through structure or through reasoning, so you might want to practice to see where a calculator might actually slow you down. If you do use a calculator, you want to make sure that you know how to use it before test day and that it's on the list of acceptable calculators that you can find on official SAT practice on Kahn Academy and also SAT.org. - Okay so there are some calculators that just are not allowed? - Like the little basically computers probably maybe not so good for a test yeah. - So I think it's the ones that you can like type in and save like documents to tell you how to do problems right like it's the ones that have the keyboard. - Let's worry about the ones you can use. - Yeah don't worry about those. You're not going to be allowed in with one of those calculators so we're gonna post down below, I have to use this, down below we're gonna post. - Is that a number two pencil? - This is a number two pencil. - Perfect. - Number two. And we're gonna post the link to the acceptable calculators and also you should, while we continue to talk for the next few minutes, write questions. If you have questions for us, now's the time to write them into the comments. We'll be able to take some of them and also some of them will be answered by the folks who are standing by at Kahn Academy and College Board. So yeah calculator use, I, my advice about calculator use, I like to give students don't just start plugging stuff into your calculator, you shouldn't. Write down as much as possible when you're doing a math test, the math question, write stuff down. Don't do stuff in your head and if you, 'cause if you do stuff in your head, you may lose track of what you're doing, come out with an answer that isn't there and then have to go back to square one. Another thing that could happen is you make a little mistake in your mental calculation and there's that answer that reflects that mistaken calculation. That's a common mistake. So the more that you write down what you're doing, the better you're gonna do and the more accurate you can be when you do decide that it makes sense to use a calculator. Okay are there any other skills that the students should be practicing? - I think in general, you want to read widely. So what that means, we didn't talk about this yet but on the reading test you'll see a passage that's U.S. or World Literature. You'll see one or a pair of founding documents or passages from the great global conversation they inspire, you'll see a social science passage and you'll see one or a pair of passages, I'm sorry two or one or a pair of science passages. So it's a broad range, so you want to be comfortable reading both challenging fiction and challenging nonfiction. - So there's science on the PSAT/NMSQT? - There's science passages but we won't ask you questions about science content. We may ask you how a scientist who's written a study is explaining his argument or how he's using evidence, he or she is using evidence to support something. So it's questions about the passage and it's a serious science topic. - Okay, okay that's great. Super helpful. So we, I think we've covered our prepared questions and we could move on to your questions. I'm gonna pick up my little, my Kahn Academy laptop and look at what kind of questions are coming in. Let's see. Okay first can you use official SAT practice on Kahn Academy to prep for the PSAT? I think we know the answer to that. - Yes you can. They're very similar in format and content. So it's great practice for the PSAT but. - NMSQT. - Yes thank you but like we said, this is more, I think you should focus to get ready for SAT, especially if you're taking PSAT/NMSQT in the next two weeks stay calm, you don't have to go crazy. I think the best thing to do is get familiar with what the test looks like and the PSAT/NMSQT, colleges won't see those scores. Your school will and maybe your state or district. It's more to help you see where your strengths and places where you want to improve are. - Okay that's a good, you raise a good question. Like what does this count? Like does it matter how well I do on this? We talked about the National Merit Scholarship but will this be reported to colleges? - It won't be but it is important to really get the best idea of where you might want to focus your practice when you practice for SAT then, you should take it seriously. - 'Cause when you get your results back, it's gonna tell you all sorts of stuff about like what you could better right? - And where you already do well. - Great okay so that's another great lead in to official SAT practice because once you get your PSAT results, you can link your College Board account to your Kahn Academy account if you haven't already done that and you can get personalized practice recommendations that are specifically created and designed just for you based on the questions you missed. - Right. - So you guys are in the right place. Congratulations you're way ahead of the game. Okay let's see. How do I know what score I need to get to qualify for National Merit? - I think the best place to find information about the National Merit program is National Merit Scholarship program and there's a link on SAT.org to that program and that's gonna have the most accurate and up to date information. - Okay let's see. What strategies can I use on the reading section? Strategies to use, I guess that one's for me. - Well you just did a great video on reading strategies. - I did, thank you. (laughs) So I, last week on Wednesday, you can go into Kahn Academy Facebook page and you see that there, I spoke for like an hour straight and a lot of that was about reading, so there's specific strategies in there, you can also find strategies in the official SAT practice, tips and strategies section, but briefly, so the ones that I think are really helpful is the first one is don't just read the passage, read the questions, read the choices and choose the one that looks best. It's much better to have a sense of what you think the answer before you look at the choices. I even sort of recommend trying to cover up the choices until you have an idea of what you think the answer is. So once you read the question, there's a technique that's in the SAT official practice called, I call it rip rap, rephrase if possible, read around and predict and the most important words being rephrase and predict. It's easier to handle a question and keep it in your head when you go back to the passage when you rephrase it using how, what or why. So if you rephrase like the author uses this word primarily in order to... I would change that and to say what does that word do? What is the function of that word and then I go back 'cause that's easy to keep in my head, what is this word doing, what is this word doing and then I'd answer it in my own words. So in that way you're taking control of the question, you're taking control of your, of what the question and then you answer it in your own words based on evidence in the passage which you talked about earlier. And then you go back and use process of elimination to cross out the ones that don't match your answer and that's a lot about trusting yourself and not getting, not looking at the choices and thinking oh that sounds good. Wait, maybe I missed something. That sounded really good, I'm gonna choose that answer 'cause it sounded good. That, that's not a good way to take the test. It's much better to trust yourself and to answer it with evidence, from evidence that's in the passage. So that's the big be all, end all of reading strategies in my opinion. - And it's important to note that any strategies that we've talked about in the past for SAT apply to PSAT/NMSQT, that they're very similar tests and the same strategies work. - Okay so in what ways is PSAT/NMSQT different from the SAT, the big SAT? - More the same than different but in terms of let's say the reading test, you won't see a passage of the highest complexity that would be on SAT on PSAT so that's a slight difference. There's some math on SAT that's no on PSAT so you were mentioning before, if you think about it, if you watch the Olympics and you watch gymnastics, some routines have a higher degree of difficulty so you can score more points. So if you think of SAT as a more difficult routine. So there's harder things to do in there but some, a lot, it's more the same than different. - Great so like the highest score that's even possible on PSAT is 1520? - 1520. - 1520 okay. You guys don't need to worry about that right now. Just do your best. And okay let's see, couple more. Interesting one. What do you think is the best way to improve your vocabulary for the verbal section of the PSAT? I'm gonna let you take that one. - Okay let's start with there's evidence-based reading and writing right but you probably mean the reading section and the, I mean the reading test and the writing and language test which both involve vocabulary in different ways. It's important to note that on the reading test, the vocabulary is going to be in context, it's going to be more like academic vocabulary, words that you would see in writing pretty often. Maybe a little less in speech. Sometimes there will be multiple meaning words so you want to make sure that you are answering questions like that based on the context of the passage and the best way to get really comfortable with those kinds of words is to read some academic writing. So that might be some more challenging pieces in newspapers or more challenging magazines and the more you read, the more you see those words used in different ways is what's important and then on the writing and language test, you'll see those words, vocabulary used in precision questions. So there might be different types of words that have slightly different meanings and you have to choose the one that's exactly right in that context. Again, you need the context of the passage and the paragraph and the sentence to really be able to choose. - Ipad is trying to reconnect and we're back. - We're back. - The, so some people wonder about vocabulary on the PSAT/NMSQT, vocabulary on the SAT, the format changed in March and the whole thing about the vocabulary changed also? - Right so if you heard about in the past, really challenging words that you would never use again, those aren't on the PSAT/NMSQT or SAT anymore. So everything's in context and like I said, it's just academic language. You still want to I think always having a great vocabulary is helpful and helps you understand the passage, it helps you understand the question, so any vocabulary building that you can do through reading is gonna help you. - But the focus of the PSAT/NMSQT, the focus of the SAT is to measure college readiness right and the change has happened because the words that are gonna be coming up more in the new format of the test are words that you've determined are more likely to be the sort of language you're gonna see in college when reading in an English course, or History course or a Science course. Cool. So but there's no like, there's no list? - Not anymore. No. - No more list. But the more you do, the better you get is what, is what we're hearing right? The more that you, you say okay you know what? I'm gonna, you're telling me I just need to read more. I should have read more for the last 15 years. Like that, the more you read, the more you challenge yourself, the more you push yourself to understand more advanced text, the better you're likely to do. - Right and I think that's a key point is to read challenging text, to look up words that as you come across and if you don't know them. I know sometimes it's hard to pause and stop reading and go look it up but that's a great way to improve your vocabulary and if you're taking any practice tests or just doing some official SAT practice that's a great time to circle words you don't know or pause and look up words you don't know. - Okay let's see. I got one more here. How should I best manage my time on the test? I guess that one's for me. So it, every learner is different, every test taker is different. I'd say that if you're the sort of person who runs out of time, then there are slightly different time management things you could consider to help you do your best and the big one is that just remember that the test doesn't, has a mixed level of difficulty through it. The math section kind of gets harder as it goes along but the reading section and the writing, the reading test and the writing and language test have a mixed bag of difficulty. So some passages will have, will start out with a more difficult question and finish up with a more basic question and so the important thing to remember for those of you who feel pressed for time is that there are easier questions waiting and passages that you might find more straightforward to understand at the end of the whole section so one way to make sure that you have a chance to do all the questions that are maybe the easier ones for you, is to, you don't have to do the whole, the reading test or the writing and language test in order. You shouldn't jump around all over the place. Like don't do that 'cause that's super confusing and it's much better to try to do every question for each passage that you choose to do but my advice would be and it's, you can find it in tips and strategies and official SAT practice, my advice would be to make sure that you don't run out of time before you have a chance to look at the questions at the end of the reading test or the writing and language test because there are easier questions that you might, there are questions that you might find easier and questions that you might find more challenging and in order to maximize your score, you're gonna want to get all the easier ones for you and the more medium ones for you correct and not get hung up on a question that's really, you're finding really challenging earlier on in the test. - The, so for the reading test and also the writing and language test, the questions come in the order that they show up in the passage so that's why they work a little bit differently than the math but all of the questions are worth the same number of points so it's, as Dave said, you don't want to linger really long on any one question but if you're really getting stuck, it's not a bad idea to move on and see if the next question is more accessible to you. - Yeah and maybe in the background your mind will be kind of bubbling away on the question that you have trouble getting and then you come back to it and your brain is sort of something shifted in your head and boom you know how to do it. Keep our fingers crossed on things like that happening. So there, got a couple more questions here that are kind of quickies. Let's see. If I take the PSAT in 10th and 11th grade, which one counts towards the NMSQT and other scholarships? - So you'll be taking the PSAT/NMSQT and you will know that's what you're taking. If you're taking it on October 19th or as I mentioned October 15th or November second. If you're taking PSAT10 that's the one that's not affiliated with National Merit and that is usually given in the spring so that's one way to know which one you're taking. - Okay so if you take it as a 10th grader, it is not NMSQT. - It might be. Some schools offer it to 10th and 11th graders but let's say if you're taking it in the spring, then it's probably PSAT10. - Okay and when will the results for the PSAT/NMSQT come out? - Those should come out in early December. - Okay and they're released to, directly to the student or to the schools or how does that work? - Only to the school so you'll get and sometimes schools mail out a paper copy but it's likely that your school will go over your score with you and you'll get to see your report and that just reminds me, another benefit of taking PSAT/NMSQT, is you'll get information on AP potential and what that means is you'll see on your score report which AP tests you are likely to be successful in based on your PSAT/NMSQT scores. - Oh great. So you're just providing tons of information about like recommendations for what you're doing great in and what you should keep on working towards and then that partnered with official SAT practice will help you really focus on the areas where you need the most work and celebrate your strengths. - Right, by taking an AP course. - Yes. Let's see. This just in, students get your PSAT results online now. That's an exciting new thing. That's great. So PSAT/NMSQT results will come straight to you. - Great, even better. - In past years, some schools kind of waited to have conversations with students and then they released them a couple weeks later or sometimes even after the new year but that's all in the past. You're gonna get your results. Great. Okay is there a guessing penalty on the PSAT? - Good question. There is not. So on PSAT/NMSQT and also SAT, there is no penalty for guessing. So it's, if you, there's no reason to skip a question anymore if you're worried about that whole kind of negotiating that. - Okay. Yeah so if you're trying to figure out if time management wise you're not sure about a question, you should leave nothing blank right and because there's no penalty. - Yeah. - Because the old format of the test there was a quarter point deduction for any question you got wrong and it was confusing because people had ideas about like when do I guess and there are different theories about that but that's. - Yep we don't have to worry about that. - Don't have to worry about that at all. How much of the PSAT is math? How long is that math section? - So half of the PSAT/NMSQT is math and then the other half is what's called evidence-based reading and writing and that's made up of the reading test and the writing and language test. - Okay and this one has a number of points about it but what is the difference between the old and new PSAT and SATs? - For the, there's a few differences. I think probably if it's mostly 10th and 11th graders tuning in right now, we probably don't want to go into. - It's over, it's in the past. - If you're really interested in the differences, you can go to SAT.org and there's some links that show you, that do comparison studies but if you haven't taken the old SAT, I wouldn't even worry about. - Live in the now. Live in the now. But I mean there are a couple big ones. The essay is no longer required. - That's on SAT. - Yeah okay good. So there's no essay on the PSAT but the essay, one of the big differences is the new format, SAT is that there is the essay is a separate thing, is not included in your score. It's a different set of scoring things and yeah check out if you're interested in researching it, there's tons of information on the web. - And even just on official SAT practice, there's a whole section on what's new, what's different and on SAT.org. - Okay and I think that's it. I think we've answered pretty much answered all your questions. - I think maybe there's a. - This one here? - To reiterate yeah about how PSAT/NMSQT. - Okay so one question here then. How does my PSAT help with practicing for SAT? - So in two really big ways. Just sitting and taking it is a great way to practice. Sitting through a whole test without your phone and focusing. - I can't use my phone? - No you can't use your phone. - Can I just have it on my desk right next to me? - No you can't have it. - Can I have it like on underneath my chair. - Nope. - Can I check it every, in the breaks? - I don't know, I don't think so. - No they can't. You can't at all. You'll have your scores canceled if you even take it out during a break. - So I know I haven't been without my phone for two hours and 45 minutes in a long tie. So it's a great way just to practice that, to practice doing multiple choice test for that long. So you get a real test day experience. So that's one great way that it helps you practice. The other great way is that once you take the PSAT/NMSQT and you link your Kahn Academy account with your College Board account, all the information from the PSAT/NMSQT, what you answered correctly, what you didn't, your scores, that will get filtered into official SAT practice and that will inform your personalized practice. So then you'll get to see where you did well and which areas you might want to focus on as you prepare for SAT. - Great. Well anything else? You good! Thank you so much for coming. Beth, thank you for taking the time to share all this. It's such a pleasure to be here. I've heard so much about it for years. Here I am. It's super exciting to meet you and to be here and it's so great to be sharing all this information with all of you out there. So thanks again for watching and we'll see you next time. - Thanks everybody. - Bye! I'm gonna turn something off now.