One of the best ways students prepare for the SAT is by first taking the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). Students tend to take the SAT in the spring of junior year and fall of senior year, and the PSAT in sophomore or junior year (although scholarship competitions only use PSAT scores from junior year). Key benefits of taking the PSAT include practicing for the SAT and determining what skills to focus the most study time on.

Big news on the SAT has been the announcement of a redesigned test that will be administered starting in spring 2016. Naturally, this means the PSAT will also undergo corresponding changes. However, due to the fact that students use the PSAT first, the redesigned PSAT is scheduled to take effect fall of 2015. (The recommended test date is Oct. 14th, with an alternative date of Oct. 28th.)

What does this mean for you or your student? The first thing to understand is the major changes coming to the SAT from a bird’s-eye view, because all of them will be reflected in the redesigned PSAT as well. In terms of content, the 2016 SAT will put increased focus on the use of evidence and reasoning in context to solve its questions, and will use vocabulary words and math questions that are most relevant to the work students will perform in college or in future careers. Additional key changes include no point deductions for incorrect answers and a scale that ranges from 400 – 1600 instead of 600 – 2400 (the essay will also now be optional rather than mandatory).

Shifting focus to the redesigned PSAT, the following are some of the key changes it will undergo:

  • The familiar Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics PSAT components will be slightly modified format, name, and content. There will now be a Reading Test and Writing and Language Test within a Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Component, as well as a separate Math component. However in many ways this structure of Reading, Writing and Language, and Math will continue to reflect the previous.
  • More emphasis will be put on testing the ability of students to analyze evidence and use context-based reasoning to answer questions. This increased focus is intended to develop the kinds of skills and knowledge students will use in college and beyond. One example is questions about how particular words affect the meaning of the extended passages they are found in.
  • Student will not lose points for incorrect or blanks scores (rights-only scoring).
  • Although the pre-2015 SAT used a scale ranging from 60 – 240, some scores will now use the scale the SAT uses, which ranges from 400 – 1600. Specifically, this will include section scores of 200 – 800 and test scores of 10 – 40. Subscores will also be reported for each test, another new feature.
  • Test time will change from 2 hours and 10 minutes to 2 hours and 45 minutes, allotting more time for each test component. The Reading component will keep the same number of questions from before (48), while the Writing and Language (44) and Math (47) components will increase by 5 and 8 questions respectively.

Although changes to the PSAT and SAT may seem daunting at first to some students, they should become more natural after increased familiarity through study and practice. The good news is that a full practice test will be available in March, and free sample questions have already been released: Why not check them out today?

Image Credit: ccarlstead