The New PSAT and What You Need to Know About It!

Come October 2015, it's a whole new PSAT for the Class of 2017 and beyond . . .

Come October 2015, it’s a whole new PSAT for the Class of 2017 and beyond . . .

What?! Why?! Say it ain’t so!

The purpose of the PSAT is to help figure out how you might do on the real SAT and prepare you for what the test will be like (minus the essay). Since the SAT is getting its own upgrade (but you knew that, right?), the PSAT is changing its content to follow the new SAT and further prepare Y-O-U.

Related: Old SAT vs. New SAT: An Infographic   

What’s changed?

The PSAT is now an additional 35 minutes. There will be 138 questions with two major sections: Evidence-Based Reading/Writing and Math. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section is further broken down into two subsections: Reading and Writing.

The Reading subsection has five parts, 47 questions, and a max time of 60 minutes. Most of the sections revolve around one reading passage, except for one, which will have two reading passages (the Reading test will have six reading passages total). Each passage is around 500–750 words and will relate to U.S. history, world literature, social studies, or science texts.

The Writing test has four parts, 44 multiple-choice questions, and gives a max time of 35 minutes. Within the Writing test, the four parts have passages between 400–450 words. The writing section will test on questions dealing with sentence structure, effective language usage, grammar rules, punctuation, and organization of the passage.

Which brings us to the final big section, Math, which has two parts, 47 questions, and a max time of 70 minutes. The Math test will cover algebra, problem solving and data analysis, polynomials, quadratic equations, trigonometric problems, area/volume, and other things you learned in math class. Of the two parts in the Math test, one is with a calculator and one is without. On testing day, you will need to bring your own calculator! Sharing a calculator between yourself and another test taker will not be permitted.

And if all that didn’t get you psyched, here is some good news on changes to scoring: there will now be four answer choices per question instead of five. So instead of going A-E, the answer choices will be A-D. With this awesome news, you are either:

b) Ehh
c) I’m going to miss having five options . . .
d) Whatever, I’m going to do great anyway. 

The scoring will fall between 320–1520, and there are no penalties for wrong answers. So you should give every question an answer and your best guess, no matter how hard!

What’s in it for me?

Not only will you get an early feel for the new SAT, but you’ll still have access to a carryover perk of the PSAT: the National Merit scholarship program. Through National Merit, you can receive recognition and scholarships based on your composite PSAT score. Each state’s score for National Merit varies. You can look for yours on the College Board’s PSAT section.

Overall, do not worry. Keep prepping for the tests. Learn more about what they entail. And remember, you got this; you’re awesome.

Want to practice? College Board has an official PSAT sample you can try for yourself.

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About Cathleen Freedman

Cathleen Freedman attends the High School of Performing and Visual Arts, where she is preparing in the best possible way for college. She would also have to say that writing in the third person is as fun as you might think it is.


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