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What You Need to Know for the New PSAT

October 6, 2015

The PSAT is a national standardized test for high school Juniors. Doing well on the PSAT is the only way students can be eligible and qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which provides high school students a generous amount in scholarship money for college. Earlier this year, Collegeboard, the company that sponsors the PSAT and the SAT, announced that both tests would be revised in both format and content.

You can still register for the PSAT online until Oct. 9 with a $10 late fee! It’s administered at Dunbar in the gym, on Wednesday, Oct. 14. New sample questions and practice tests are available here.

As for the test changes, here’s what you need to know:




The PSAT used to have three sections, consisting of Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. The Math section had a large focus on geometry and algebra. The Reading section included passages and comprehension, as well as the infamously obscure vocabulary words. The Writing section tested on both English and grammar. It didn’t include an essay, unlike the SAT.


The PSAT used to have a total test time of 2 hours and 10 minutes, with 2 reading sections, 2 math sections, and one writing section. Each section was, on average, 25 minutes, with the exceptions of a 35 minute writing section. That’s a long time to have to concentrate for, so be sure to eat a hearty breakfast!


The PSAT used to be out of 240 points. Each of the three sections counted for 80 points, which were then added up for the total 240. There are five answer choices for each section, and each incorrect answer takes off .25 points from your score. The only exception to this would be the grid-in questions on the Math portion. These questions aren’t require writing in the answer instead of multiple choice. Since this is more difficult, incorrect answers on grid-in questions are not penalized on your overall score.

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The revised PSAT now has two sections: Evidence-based Reading & Writing and Math. The Evidence based Reading and Writing section is broken up into Reading and Writing parts, and consists of long passages, with comprehension, analytical, grammar, and English questions. The Math section is broken up into Calculator-permitted and No Calculator-permitted parts. Its content moves away from geometry and focuses more on algebra and data analyzing.


The new PSAT has a total test time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. Even though it’s longer, that doesn’t mean you have a lot of free time available, since most of the test is composed of long passages.


The PSAT is now out of 1520 points. The Evidence-based Reading & Writing section and the Math section are both worth 760 points each, and there’s no longer any penalty for incorrect answers. Each category (Math, Reading, Writing) will have a sub-score out of 38 points to show you what your strengths and weaknesses are. But wait there’s more! There are now sub-section scores for specific categories such as “Heart of Algebra”. Not only that, but there are also cross-test scores available to show your abilities in different, non-related categories, such as “Analysis in Science.”

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