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What is the PSAT and Why is it Important for High School Students

The PSAT NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a standardized exam. It consists of different compartments, including a math test, reading, writing, and language test.
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What is the PSAT and Why is it Important for High School Students
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The PSAT NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a standardized exam. It consists of different compartments, including a math test, reading, writing, and language test. The time limit is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

So, what’s the PSAT? The PSAT NMSQT is mostly a multiple-choice test. There are other questions as well that do require lengthier answers. Especially with the math test.

The PSAT math test focuses on 4 distinct areas. These include data analysis & problem-solving, the heart of algebra, a passport to advanced math, and other math topics. Such as pre-calculus and trigonometry.

All of these areas require foundational math knowledge to get a good PSAT score. If your child can’t keep up with their math class or needs better math skills, getting a math tutor for PSAT can set them on the right track. 

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What is A PSAT Math Tutor

A math tutor is a coach and a mentor. The goal of tutoring is not just to solve mathematical issues but to help a student become an independent learner.

A PSAT math tutor is here to prep students for this standardized test in the summer or fall. They can create a unique course tailored to your child's needs. Math tutoring offers advanced learning material, individual learning plans, and assistance.

The top benefits of working with a math tutor include

  • Better PSAT NMSQT scores
  • One-on-one attention
  • Catching up to peers
  • Identifying weaknesses and working on them
  • Improving time management
  • Addressing the math anxiety
  • Reducing stress on test day
  • Building self-confidence

Many schools in the U.S. offer the PSAT to eleventh grade students. Some schools offer it to ninth grades and tenth-grade students. A tutor can work with any grade level and even prepare students for an academic competition.

But, if a tutor is not suited for you, your sessions may not be that effective. That’s why we compiled a guide on how to find the right math tutor that can work well with students who take the PSAT or those preparing for a National Merit Scholarship program. Such as tips on what kind of skills the tutor needs and the red flags to look out for.

How to Find PSAT Tutor in Math

Many think that looking for a good math tutor is like finding a needle in a haystack. But, with a couple of tips, you can seek out excellent tutoring to achieve better PSAT scores. Wondering what to look for in a PSAT math tutor? The following soft skills can help.

Passion for math

A tutor has to be professional and result oriented but they also need to show passion. Passion can drive engagement, grab students' attention, and increase their willingness to learn. Passion ensures that a tutor stays on top of the math teaching styles, strategies, and trends.


A math tutor for high school students preparing for the PSAT should anticipate common misunderstandings among students in different high schools. Tutors should explain a concept as many times as it takes. Although the PSAT is a low-stakes test, meaning that the college board and special scholarship programs won’t see the scores, it is a qualifying exam for National Merit Scholarships.

Listening skills

Being a good listener helps build trust, foster cooperation, and boost student progress. So they can understand what the student is thinking. For tutors working with test takers, this is detrimental to finding any gaps in previous knowledge.


For an eighth-grade student to feel comfortable learning, the tutor must show compassion, especially since many high school students struggle to retain or learn information. Empathy can empower students and help them feel at ease while taking the PSAT and NMSQT.


When preparing to take the PSAT, collaboration is essential. It encompasses anything from problem-solving to brainstorming new ideas.

Clear communication

Experienced online math tutors can successfully communicate with and relate to students of all ages starting from elementary school all the way up to middle school including students in eighth and ninth grades.

Through thinking aloud, detailed instruction, feedback, and support, they can help students get higher section scores with the reading test, and other cross test scores. This is essential when trying to excel at the writing and language test and achieve a better PSAT score report.

With Learner, you get top-notch math tutors for every age and phase of your student's life. They can help students fully understand concepts for a solid PSAT score report. Lerner’s tutors are very positive, flexible, thoughtful, and prepared to guide students every step of the way.

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The Skills and Experience To Look for in a PSAT Math Tutor

When the test date is near, students need more than just to work on their reading, writing and language tasks. They need proper problem solving techniques that can help them get a high score.

Taking the PSAT NMSQT means you need to find a tutor with the right hard skills for reaching the desired test scores. A math tutor for PSAT should specialize in science, mathematics tutoring, and standardized exam preparation.

Through Learner, you can get a certified PSAT Tutor. Here is what to look for in a PSAT math tutor when it comes to skills and experience.

Heart of algebra

Since the test is designed for junior year or sophomore students, it is important to gain knowledge of algebra I. The math tutor for PSAT must focus on teaching systems of linear equations and functions.

Problem solving

Data analysis and problem solving mean that students need to use percentages, ratios, and proportional reasoning to get high score ranges. Math tutors should have the skills and experience to teach students how to solve these tasks.


Test takers will need a basic understanding of both plane geometry and coordinate geometry. Such as working with Perpendicular Lines and Parallel, Midpoint formulas and distance, relations of plane figures and properties, etc.


Other than the writing and language test, the PSAT NMSQT includes different math topics, such as pre-calculus. A math tutor for PSAT must have the skills to teach composite functions, complex numbers, vectors, probability, etc.


The right tutor has the expertise to work with three-dimensional figures and trigonometric functions. This can help students find distances and angles, all of which are critical to getting a high PSAT score.

Learner’s Tutors have exactly what it takes to help students get a deeper dive into math and gain confidence for college readiness.

They can help students understand mathematical problems on a higher level. This can come in handy for the admissions test for college.

Red Flags to Look Out For When Considering a PSAT Math Tutor

When your child has to take the PSAT, you might want to find a tutor as soon as possible. But some math tutors may show red flags that you may not be aware of.

Here are the warning signs of a bad PSAT tutor.

No credentials

A minimum requirement for a PSAT tutor is a bachelor’s degree. Tutors don’t need a formal license. But they do need proof of their own high PSAT scores and SAT scores. Having too low scores on the test or not showing them at all could be a warning sign.


If the math tutor postpones, changes, or cancels too many tutoring sessions, this is considered a red flag. They are difficult to rely on, which can put a strain on any student who has to take the PSAT NMSQT.

Lack of progress

Student report cards are not showing any periodical progress that could help them excel at different section scores of the PSAT. So, when test day comes, you can’t expect any progress either.


A bad PSAT math tutor takes too long to respond or doesn’t respond at all. Their hectic workload is often distracting, which leaves most students feeling neglected.

Unhappy students

Bad reviews on past PSAT scored tests are a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. If the student is feeling pressured, negative, or stressed after each session, then this is a red flag.

Questions to Ask in a Potential PSAT Math Tutor

If you are still figuring out what to look for in a PSAT math tutor, the questions below can help.

  • How is your tutor track record for students who take the PSAT?
  • What is your teaching style for educating students in high schools?
  • How soon can I start seeing results before students take the PSAT?

If you need more PSAT-related questions, then the list below can help.

  • How to save time on solving PSAT questions to get a better score?
  • What not to do during a PSAT test?
  • What are the most difficult parts of getting high-score reports?
  • Can you give a practice version test to check the difficulty level?

Also, it’s important to mention what is a good PSAT score. The score ranges from 320 to 1520. The reading and writing test scores range from 160 to 760. The math test score range is from 160 to 760.

A score of 1070 or over, puts students in the top 25% of all test takers. For tenth graders, PSAT NMSQT scores of 1360 to 1520 are considered outstanding. A score of 1180 is seen as great, a score of 1060 is solid, and a score of 920 is average

What to Expect When Working With an Online PSAT Math Tutor at Learner

With online tutoring at Learner, high school students get better flexibility, independence, and convenience. Online tutoring is a lot more engaging and fun for other test takers.

You can book sessions in the comfort of your home. This eliminates travel time and any geographical restraints. So, hiring an online PSAT math tutor is a more cost-effective solution than in-person tutoring.

Ready to book a free session? Take the next step and with our matching quiz!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the PSAT Important?

The PSAT NMSQT is a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship. Although it won’t count for college admissions, it can open doors for college scholarships and boost confidence for the SAT test.

Is the SAT or PSAT harder?

PSAT is a preliminary SAT in high school, while the SAT exam is a college entrance exam. So, SAT is a bit harder than PSAT NMSQT.

Is the PSAT the same as the SAT?

They use an almost identical writing and language section, but not the same. PSAT doesn’t have an essay, is 15 min shorter, and uses a different score scale.

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About the author:

Mike developed his passion for education as a math instructor at Penn State University. He expanded his educational experience launching and running an Executive Education business - training over 100,000 students per year. As the CEO of Learner, Mike focuses on accelerating learning and unleashing the potential of students. 

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