First Look at Official New PSAT: Post-Mortem Report

In Test Prep General by Peter Peng2 Comments

So I must be crazy. Guess how I just spent my first full day off in a very long time? Did someone say taking a practice test? We have a winner!

The Collegeboard has finally released its first full-length, official new format PSAT, which will roll out on October 14, 2015 (for most schools, or October 28, 2015 as an additional test date). I sat down and decided to take the blasted thing, timed, for fun, and for your education because that’s what I do—nerdy to the max, but you know you love it. 😀

If you want to take a stab at the test yourself, here are the links:

Official New 2015 PSAT Mock Test
Answers and Explanations to the New Mock PSAT

Now keep in mind, this test is so new it doesn’t even come with a grading scale because not even the CollegeBoard knows whether these questions are any good. The test probably represents the style and concepts we can expect to see on the new PSAT and new SAT (coming March 2016), but the spread of difficulty levels is still being worked out. They need real students taking the test to figure out a normative grading curve, so while you can check your answers, you won’t really know what missing, say 5 questions, means to your score. By the way, they are returning to the old 1600 scale from a decade ago, instead of the current 2400 scale.

The new test is longer (2 hrs 45 minutes) now, which is 35 minutes longer than the current PSAT (2 hrs 10 minutes). Like the current PSAT, the new PSAT will not include an essay. That’s only available on the current SAT, new SAT, and current ACT. Keep in mind, this post is focusing on the normal new PSAT, not the new PSAT 10 or PSAT 8/9, which are supposedly in the works for younger students in 8th, 9th, and 10th grade.

My first impressions about the new PSAT were interesting. I’ll say overall, the test was ostensibly harder than the current PSAT/SAT. I’d honestly be far more impressed with someone who misses nothing on this new test than someone accomplishing the same feat on the current (soon-to-be old) PSAT/SAT. The new this much more curriculum-based, so it’ll fall significantly more in line with what you’re learning in school.

Some portions on this mock PSAT, like the reading, felt about the same level of difficulty. Other sections, like the math, were vastly different, with a new batch of concepts, different tricks, and approaches. These changes all stem from a philosophy to align the new SAT to what students are actually learning at school. Although I was a skeptic at first, on that front, I think they’ve succeeded. I found many of these questions much more resistant to the normal tactics and strategies I usually teach. Answering these questions required a healthy dose of strong academic fundamentals in reading, grammar, and math.

Obviously, all of these impressions must be taken with a huge grain of salt. It’s just one test, so my views here can hardly be comprehensive or representative. Nevertheless, it’s a first look at a scary change.

Timing wise, I didn’t feel crunched for time in any section, so this isn’t going to be like the ACT, which forces students to work extremely quickly. Most students can’t even finish the ACT Reading or Science section in time, but I was able to work leisurely with about 10 minutes to spare in each section on this PSAT.

In the next few days, I’ll be releasing my post-mortem report on each section.

Keep your eyes peeled, and subscribe to my free newsletter below so you don’t miss anything.

UPDATE:
Part 1: New PSAT General Impressions (this is the current post)
Part 2: New PSAT Reading Post-Mortem
Part 3: New PSAT Writing & Language Post-Mortem
Part 4: New PSAT Math

Comments

  1. Peter O'Leary

    Hi Peter! I am done with the SAT and college process but might begin tutoring a bit over the summer if I’m needed. I might cover the new SAT, so your detailed analysis and info were very valuable to me. I want to thank you for your advice while I was studying over the past summer. Personally, I think these changes are immense, surpring, and, above all, positive. The SAT is finally aligning more with what schools teach. I’m worried but excited. The one thing I think should have remained is the emphasis on vocabulary. Studying this has been an asset, and I hope students do not miss out on this benefit. Thanks again!

    1. Author
      Peter Peng

      Nice, man! Are you helping out by tutoring younger students? That’s awesome. The new PSAT/SAT still has vocab. It’s not like it just disappeared, and any hype surrounding the lack of vocab on the new SAT is just that–overplayed hype. Check out my new PSAT reading post (Part 2) for some example words that will still show up on the new test. It looks like CollegeBoard is making a concerted effort to make the vocab more relevant to real life (words you’d actually encounter in college or in the professional workplace), instead of random, obscure words, but they’re still big words.

      Glad I was able to help you out! Please guide your friends over to my site 🙂

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