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How to Prepare for the New PSAT

For 10th and 11th graders, the PSAT will be different this October. While this may not necessarily be news, you should recognize that the test changes are significant enough to warrant extra study. In other words, if you spent all summer preparing for the old SAT format, then it will be best to prepare for the new PSAT with new SAT materials. While the changes aren't too drastic, there are some content areas that can definitely catch you off guard. And with about month left until testing, you should use as much time as you can to make the transition from old to new as smooth as possible.

1) Study the new reading passage questions.

The evidence questions in particular are new and could pose a challenge if you don’t understand the pattern test makers use to create the questions. Also, the reading passages all occur in one section and there are no more sentence completions. Don't assume the changes make for the "same old" test.

2) Practice the new writing section format.

The writing section has the biggest change. Instead of isolated grammar errors, you have to read full passages and answer questions about content, style, and grammar. The format is very similar to that of ACT English. You need to get used to reading a passage and editing it as you go along. If you are someone who routinely gets perfect scores on the old SAT writing sections, you may still miss a few questions without preparation.

3) Review the math concepts and shift to “real world” problems.

Math makes up two of the four sections of the test. You can use a calculator on one and then not on the other. The focus has shifted away from geometry and has moved to algebra and word problems. Don't think that a general knowledge of math will be enough.

4) Get familiar with the test as a whole.

Unlike the old SAT, there are only four sections on the new PSAT. Reading and Writing make up the first two and, as stated earlier, Math makes up the final two. While it may seem strange, Reading and Writing combine to make a max score of 760; Math is overall a max score of 760. So the highest score you can get is 1520. College Board makes this weird number because they have a step approach to scores of the 8/9 PSAT, the 10/11 PSAT, and the SAT; these tests have max scores of 1440, 1520, and 1600 respectively.

Like with any new test, it is important to practice. If you have spent extensive time working on the old SAT, then you should at least do a practice PSAT test each week until test time. If you are a bit rusty on both, balance your studies so you can get the most practice for both tests. 11th graders are really the only ones who have to go through the growing pains, so plan smart and don’t let your school work get too much in the way.

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