The 7 Key Changes of the Redesigned PSAT

Redesigned PSAT in October of 2015

Perhaps you've heard that the SAT is getting a major overhaul, and because of this, the PSAT is changing, too. If you haven't heard, here's the news: The current SAT is going away and a redesigned SAT will take its place in the spring of 2016. Since the PSAT closely mirrors the SAT, the 2014 PSAT was the last administration of the test in its former style; the Redesigned PSAT will be taking its place in October of 2015. It's coming up sooner than you think!

Here's some information about the seven key changes of the redesigned PSAT so you know what to expect if you're taking it as a sophomore or junior in 2015. 

Want to know even more about the redesign? Check out Redesigned PSAT 101 for all the facts and the Past PSAT vs. Redesigned PSAT Chart for easy comparisons.

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Key Change #1: Relevant Words in Context

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Getty Images | Image Source

Kids, this is a major change. No longer will you need to memorize obscure words for the PSAT, only to forget them the second you fill in your last oval on the exam. Rather than memorizing list after list of words you may never see or hear again, you'll simply be asked to understand applicable, appropriate and usable vocabulary in a passage of text based on the context in which the words are situated. The College Board refers to these as "Tier Two" words: “words that are of high utility for mature language users and are found across a variety of domains.” These words appear in written texts across the board, but infrequently in spoken language.

Want to practice? Here are some vocabulary in context worksheets!

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Key Change #2: Command of Evidence

copyright flickr user Lachlan Hardy

If you're taking the new PSAT, you'll have to show mastery of the texts you read. You'll need to be able to interpret, draw conclusions from, and use any text you're given whether it's an infographic, a multi-paragraph passage from literature, or even a career-related passage. What does that look like? Here are just a few of the things you must be able to do:

  • Select a quote from the text that best supports the answer you've chosen. In other words, you'll need to be able to demonstrate why your answer is correct!
  • Pair the information conveyed through a graphic with a passage to find the best answer.
  • Analyze a series of paragraphs to make sure they are grammatically and contextually correct.
  • Interpret graphics and edit the passage that goes with it so that it accurately conveys the information in the graphics.
  • Write a clear analysis about an author's use of persuasion and support your claims with evidence drawn from the source.
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Key Change #3: Focus on Math That Matters Most

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Getty Images | Justin Lewis

 The Redesigned PSAT will focus on these three areas in the new PSAT Math section:

  1. Problem-Solving and Data Analysis: using ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to solve problems in science, social science, and career contexts
  2. Heart of Algebra: focuses on the mastery of linear equations and systems, which helps students develop key powers of abstraction.
  3. Passport to Advanced Math: focuses on the student’s familiarity with more complex equations and the manipulation they require.

Take an SAT Math Practice Quiz

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Key Change #4: Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts

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Getty Images | Erik Dreyer

Although you will encounter unfamiliar passages in literature and literary nonfiction on the Redesigned PSAT, (you'll encounter them in real life, too), you'll also take on passages and contexts that are a bit more familiar. And if they're not now, they will be in your future. You'll be asked to:

  • Analyze charts, graphs, and passages like the ones you're likely to encounter in science, social science, and other majors and careers.
  • Edit and revise to improve texts from the humanities, history, social science, and career contexts, like you'd have to do in college or in your future career.
  • Solve multistep problems in science, social science, career scenarios, and other real-life contexts. 
  • Read a scenario, answer questions about it, then model it mathematically. 
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Key Change #5: Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies

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Getty Images | Annabelle Breakey

The Redesigned PSAT will feature graphics and texts from science, history and social studies, which is definitely applicable to the real world. Political news, global events, health and environmental issues are all going to come up in your lifetime; the new PSAT wants to measure how well you read and comprehend that type of information. 

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Key Change #6: Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation

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 Not only will you read text from history, science and social studies on the new PSAT, you'll also encounter a passage from a founding document like the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence or Federalist Papers. Or, you'll encounter text written by a global leader like Edmund Burke, Gandhi or Mary Wollstonecraft. The writers want to ensure that you can read works that explore challenging ideas, offer important insights, reveal new discoveries, and build deep knowledge in numerous disciplines. 

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Key Change #7: No Penalty for Wrong Answers

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On the current PSAT, you're penalized a quarter of a point for guessing incorrectly. On the Redesigned PSAT, you're awarded points for correct answers only.