The New PSAT

The PSAT is undergoing its biggest change in 30 years. The College Board format redesign is aimed at leveling the playing field for students and aligning the testing material more closely with what students actually learn in high school. The 2015 PSAT will debut a redesign similar to the revised SAT.

It will be important to adjust your preparation in key ways. Here are three areas to keep in mind as you study for the PSAT

Content: The redesigned PSAT, questions will place more emphasis on analysis and using information in context instead of rote memorization of words or formulas.

For instance, memorizing lists of commonly-tested vocabulary will no longer be effective. Since the PSAT and the SAT will assess your vocabulary skills by embedding terms within larger passages, and understandings that research has identified as most important for college and career readiness and success. There will be greater emphasis on the meaning of words in extended contexts and on how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact. Similarly, grammar questions will also involve working with grammatical mistakes in context, rather than in isolated sentences.

Questions on the math section will also place more emphasis on focus on problem solving and data analysis than they will on rote memorization – geometry will be de-emphasized, for example. This will allow for more problems that involve charts, graphs and data analysis.

Length: The redesigned PSAT will be 35 minutes longer than the current test. It will also have an additional 14 questions. ​​This means you will need to train yourself to focus over the entire, extended length of the exam. The longer PSAT may negatively affect your testing speed at first. If you are practicing with full length old practice tests, give yourself an extra section to practice test-taking for that longer chunk of time. As you practice, take note of your energy and attention. It will also be wise to devote extra attention to your time management strategies.

Answers: The redesigned PSAT will use four multiple-choice answers instead of five. This means you have a better chance of getting the answer right if you guess!  They have eliminated the wrong answer penalty, you don’t have to devise a strategy anymore for which questions to guess on and which to leave blank.

Many of the skills and knowledge being tested remains the same from the old PSAT. The new PSAT asks you to go one step further – to back up your answer with evidence, whether it is from a passage or chart, and to understand the relationships among words and numbers. This remains a very coachable test for which students need to prepare. While you do not need to radically alter your current PSAT study regimen, noting the three areas discussed above can help you find greater success on the 2015 PSAT.

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