The New PSAT
The PSAT is being redesigned this year, as well as the SAT, so let’s get familiar with the changes. The redesign mimics that of the SAT, including changes in structure, content, and scoring.
Why is the PSAT changing?
The College Board wants the PSAT and SAT content to align better with what is being taught in school systems, especially after the implementation of common core standards. So, the new SAT and PSAT (what we call the rSAT and rPSAT) are adapting to a testing style closer to that of the current ACT. Most test prep professionals also see this change as a move to be more competitive with the ACT, which has overtaken the SAT in popularity in recent years.
Will October’s PSAT be the new or old one?
The October test dates for the PSAT will be the first of the newly redesigned test. The reason the PSAT is changing first is so that students can be familiarized and prepared for the new SAT later in 2015.
What has changed?
Scoring: Scores are on roughly the same scale as the rSAT, which has a total score of 1600. The rPSAT score ranges from 320–1520 for the total score, and 160–760 for each of two section scores. These are meant to predict your scores on the rSAT, but they are not a guarantee, as the rSAT covers more material and is longer than the rPSAT. Along with the reduction in the number of answer choices from 5 to 4, the rPSAT and rSAT are doing away with the -¼ point deduction for every wrong answer, otherwise known as “rights-only” scoring. This means there is no longer a penalty for guessing.
Timing: The length of the entire test will be 2 hours and 45 minutes long, 35 minutes longer than the old PSAT. The various section lengths have been adjusted appropriately.
Content: The rPSAT and rSAT ask more questions on science and history by incorporating them into the reading, writing, and math sections through charts, graphs, and data analysis. There is also a reduced emphasis on vocabulary, with reading and writing sections favoring understanding words within their context. Math will now be divided into two sections: with and without calculator. Both portions of the math section will include multiple choice and grid-in questions.