Students will encounter the newest version of the PSAT starting next week. Schools will administer the test during the school day, on either of two dates: October 14 or an alternate date of October 28. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, this test adds 35 minutes to the previous versions. Furthermore, the scores, which will correspond to the score report on the revised SAT, will have only two major divisions. These include the combined Evidence-Based Reading and Writing” section and Math. The test will have two math sections, but students will be permitted to use calculators on only one of those sections.
The College Board maintains that the new test will, “Focus on the knowledge, skills, and understandings that research has identified as most important for college and career readiness and success.” (collegeboard.org) Thus, sentence completions have disappeared in favor of understanding vocabulary within the context of a reading passage. Students may find that data analysis appears not only on the math sections, but also in the reading/language section. They may have to interpret charts and graphs within each section of the test.
Regarding testing strategy, students should be aware that the PSAT and SAT (beginning in March) will no longer have a guessing penalty. That means students should provide a response to every question because tests will have a “rights-only” scoring system. Those scores will be similar to those of the SAT. According to the college board.org, “The Total scores will be the sum of the two sections: 320-1520.”
Only scores for current high school juniors count towards National Merit Scholarship awards. While students in other grades may take the test, their scores do not count, regardless of how well they perform. Yet, practice makes perfected, so having a preview of what is to come is certainly advantageous. Good luck!