The PSAT is undergoing its biggest change in 30 years. The College Board says it is trying to make the test more relevant to high school curriculum. The Redesigned PSAT is expected to debut in October of 2015.

The content on the redesigned PSAT will be very similar to that which is on the current PSAT. The major difference is in how the concepts are tested and the steps students will have to take to solve problems correctly. Students will have to reason their way through this exam by tackling problems in a linear and sequential fashion; a student’s ability to process information quickly will be key.

The redesigned PSAT will be 35 minutes longer than the current PSAT and much closer to the 3 hours of the redesigned SAT (without essay).

This remains a very coachable test for which students need to prepare.

Changes The Current PSAT The Redesigned PSAT
(coming October 2015)
SECTIONS
3 sections
  • Math
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing Skills
2 sections
  • Math
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
SCORING
Total score (60–240)
  • 3 section scores (20–80)
Some scores reported on same scale as redesigned SAT: 400–1600 (total), 200–800 (section scores), 10–40 (test scores)
LENGTH OF TEST
(WITHOUT BREAKS)
2 hours, 10 minutes
2 hours, 45 minutes
INCORRECT ANSWER PENALTY
1/4 point off for each incorrect answer on multiple-choice questions
No penalty for incorrect answers
CALCULATORS
Calculators permitted on some math questions
Calculators permitted on some math questions

While the overall time per question is about the same, certain sections of the test will require a speedier pace.

The Current PSAT The Redesigned PSAT
 
Time Alloted
(minutes)
Number of Questions
 
Time Alloted
(minutes)
Number of Questions
Math
50 38
Math
70 47
Reading
50 48
Reading
60 47
Writing
30 39
Writing
35 44
TOTAL
130 125
TOTAL
165 138

The first administration of the redesigned PSAT is in October of 2015.

Getting the score you want on this high-stakes test starts by creating a plan for preparation. No matter what your areas of academic strength or weakness, or your confidence as a test taker, focused practice and dedicated effort to understanding where you need to improve will be key to cracking the test.

The Princeton Review will continue to be your go-to resource for everything you need to do well on college entrance exams and continue to help you navigate the college admissions and financial aid process.

We will be offering a new 2-hour assessment called ACT-SAT StartUp. This free test will combine question types from the ACT and the redesigned SAT and is intended for students graduating in the Class of 2017 and beyond.

BENEFITS OF TAKING THE ACT-SAT STARTUP:

  • You will get exposure to both the ACT and the redesigned SAT in a single testing experience.
  • You will receive a score report showing the overall percentage of correct responses and a total number of correct, incorrect and blank responses in each question category of the ACT and the redesigned SAT.
  • You will receive explanations for every question on the StartUp.
Click here to find an event near you.

Because the PSAT is changing before the SAT, Class of 2017 students have some strategic choices to make about their admissions testing.

ACT Test Takers.  Ideally, you will determine whether the SAT or ACT is a better fit during your sophomore year. If you know you are taking the ACT, you can tune out discussions about the SAT. You can take a practice test in each with us to help you decide.

In addition, while you may be required by your school to take the PSAT in October 2015, there is no reason to worry about it. True, if you do exceptionally well on the PSAT, you may receive National Merit Scholarship recognition, but if ACT is the better test for you, you probably have already rejected the idea of trying to score in the 99 th  percentile on the PSAT.

Current SAT Test Takers.  You will have the ability to take the current SAT in the fall and January of junior year. This means starting SAT preparation early, perhaps the summer between 10 th  and 11 th  grades. Focusing on the current SAT has the benefit of both familiarity and earlier completion of a major testing requirement. Of course, taking the current SAT doesn’t prevent you from taking the redesigned SAT. In fact, if you take both, you can rely on whichever score is better, but you will need to prep for both tests.

If you do plan to take the current SAT and your school offers the PSAT in 10 th  grade, you will have an opportunity for exposure to the current SAT. After all, the current PSAT is a shorter version of the current SAT. If you cannot take the PSAT in 10 th  grade, no worries. You can still prepare for the SAT before and during junior year.

Your 11 th  grade PSAT, however, will not reflect the current SAT, as the redesigned PSAT will be in administered for the first time in October 2015. It is important to bear this in mind, especially if you are deep in prep for a fall 2015 current SAT. As is the case for ACT takers, you shouldn’t stress about the new PSAT. Of course, if you might receive National Merit Scholarship recognition on the new PSAT, definitely prepare for it!

Redesigned SAT Test Takers.  If there is no chance that you will take the SAT before March 2016, then all of your prep should focus on the redesigned SAT. In this case, there is no benefit to taking the PSAT in 10 th  grade. You cannot receive National Merit Scholarship recognition for the PSAT in 10 th  grade, and that test will not resemble the SAT you eventually will take.

On the other hand, the PSAT in 11 th  grade will provide an opportunity for exposure to the redesigned SAT, as the new PSAT is expected to closely resemble the redesigned SAT. Also, if the redesigned SAT is a particularly good fit for you, you might be able to receive National Merit Scholarship recognition from the 11 th  grade PSAT. In that case, you should prepare for the PSAT. That preparation will then carry over once you begin to prepare for the SAT.

Both SAT Test Takers.  One play is to hedge your bets by taking the current SAT by January 2016 and the redesigned SAT in the spring of junior year or fall of senior year. In this case, your 11 th  grade PSAT strategy is a bit more complicated. On the one hand, it would be nice to prepare for the PSAT. However, preparing for the new PSAT and the current SAT at the same time might involve sensory overload. In that case, focus on the current SAT first without worrying about the PSAT—unless National Merit Scholarship recognition is a meaningful probability. Once you are done with the current SAT, refocus your prep for the redesigned SAT.

Whatever you decide, remember that your PSAT scores do not go to colleges. Rather, for all but a very few, the PSAT is nothing more than a practice test. Only those who hope to score high enough for National Merit Scholarship recognition should have any concerns with respect to the PSAT!

Here are all of the testing dates available in junior year for Class of 2017 students:

ACTCurrent SATRedesigned SATRedesigned PSAT
September 2015
October 2015
December 2015
February 2016
April 2016
June 2016
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
March 2016
May 2016
June 2016
October 2015

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