Why Take the PSAT & Information on the New PSAT Format

A photo depiction of college advisors South Florida at International College Counselors offer advice: Why take the PSAT? And offer info on the new PSAT format

While it may seem like just another standardized test, the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) holds significant importance in a high school student’s college application process. So why take the PSAT? It offers the following:

1. Practice for the SAT

The PSAT, also known as the SAT practice test, is an excellent way for students to become familiar with the format and content of the SAT, one of the standardized tests widely used for college admissions in the United States. By taking the PSAT, students gain valuable experience that may help reduce anxiety when it comes time to tackle the SAT itself. By taking the PSAT, students can get accustomed to the types of questions asked, the time constraints, and the overall structure of the test.

2. Scholarship Opportunities

Scoring well on the PSAT can open the door to valuable scholarship opportunities. The National Merit Scholarship Program, for instance, uses PSAT scores to identify high-achieving students. Many colleges and universities, as well as a number of businesses, also offer merit-based scholarships based on the National Merit Scholarship Program.

3. Ability to Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

After taking the test, students receive a comprehensive score report that breaks down their performance by section, allowing them to evaluate their testing strengths and weaknesses. Using this feedback, students can tailor their study plans and focus on the areas that need improvement.

4. Access to Resources

When students prepare for the PSAT, they start tapping into resources which will help them with the SAT. These resources may include study guides, practice tests, and personalized feedback on their performance. Note that the first digital PSAT will be given in October 2023, and the College Board offers official digital PSAT resources and tutorials, including full length practice tests. Additionally, International College Counselors can help families connect with tutors who will be the right fit for your student. 

5. Benchmark for Improvement

By taking the PSAT in their sophomore and junior year, students can track their progress and see how their skills have developed. This not only boosts confidence but also helps ensure that they are on the right path with their test score goals.

Understanding the Digital PSAT Format

The digital PSAT mirrors the paper-and-pencil version in many ways, but it differs in others. To succeed on the digital PSAT, it’s important for students to understand its format:

1. Sections

The digital PSAT consists of two sections: (a) Reading and Writing and (b) Math. Each section assesses specific skills and knowledge relevant to college readiness.

Most of the questions are multiple choice, though some of the math questions ask the student to enter the answer rather than select it.

2. Test Duration

Students have 64 minutes to complete the two Reading and Writing modules (32 minutes each) and 70 minutes to complete the two Math modules (35 minutes each), for a grand total of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

The digital PSAT is adaptive—what does that mean? Every test taker starts at the same level of difficulty. The first module of each section contains a mix of questions ranging from easy to medium to difficult. Based on how a student performs on the first module, the second module will then present questions that are either more difficult or less difficult. If a student does well on the first module and is subsequently presented with more difficult questions, they will have higher potential for a higher score.

3. Guessing

The test has no penalty for guessing. Therefore, if a student is not sure of the answer, it’s better to guess than to leave the response blank.

4. Digital Interface

Students will take the digital PSAT on a computer or tablet using a secure online platform provided by the College Board. Students will navigate through the test sections, answer questions, and access digital tools.

5. Question Types

a) Reading and Writing: In the Reading and Writing section, students will encounter passages from various disciplines and answer questions that assess their reading comprehension and analysis skills. This section also evaluates the ability to edit and revise written content. Students will correct grammar and punctuation errors, improve sentence structure, and enhance the overall clarity of passages.

b) Math: The Math section assesses mathematical reasoning and problem-solving abilities. It covers algebra, geometry, trigonometry, data analysis and some advanced math concepts.

6. Digital Tools

Students will have access to an on-screen calculator for the math section. Students also have the option to bring their own calculator.

7. Score Reporting

Students will typically receive their scores within a few weeks.

If you’re a high school student, remember that taking the PSAT is an important milestone in your college journey.

International College Counselors

No matter where your family is in the college admissions process, International College Counselors can help you with every aspect, including connecting your family with PSAT, SAT, and ACT tutors. Call us at 954-414-9986 to discuss how we can support you and your family!