The Redesigned PSAT Reading Test

Getty Images | Martin Child

In the fall of 2015, the College Board issued the Redesigned PSAT, which was changed to mirror the Redesigned SAT. Both tests look very different from the old designs. One of the major changes was the retiring of the Critical Reading test. It was replaced by the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, of which, the Reading test is a major part. This page explains what you can expect to find from that portion when you sit for the Redesigned PSAT as a sophomore or junior.

Want to know even more about the SAT redesign? Check out Redesigned PSAT 101 for all the facts. 

Format of the PSAT Reading Test

  • 4 complete passages and 1 pair of related passages = 5 sections
  • 47 multiple-choice questions = 9-10 questions per section
  • 60 minutes = 12 minutes per test section if you're budgeting your time, although you won't be assigned only 12 minutes per section.

Passage Information

What exactly are you be reading on this reading test? Well, first, each of the five sections' passages are between 500 – 750 words total and the total word count dose not exceed 3,000 words, so each is a manageable portion (or portions!) of text. One of the passages is related to U.S. or World literature. Perhaps a passage from Anna Karenina? Or For Whom The Bell Tolls? Two of the remaining passages come from History or Social Studies texts and the remaining two come from Science texts. You'll also see 1-2 graphics in the history passages and 1 in a science passage.

So, if you're a visual learner, here is an imagined example of what your Reading test could look like:

  • Section 1: A 525-word passage about fiber optics with a line graph about telecommunications over the past 20 years. 10 questions.
  • Section 2: A 700-word passage from Ulysses by James Joyce. 9 questions.
  • Section 3: A 400-word passage about social injustice and a 250-word excerpt from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. 10 questions.
  • Section 4: A 625-word passage about the Qing Dynasty and a bar graph of imperial dynasties of China. 9 questions.
  • Section 5: A 500-word passage about animal psychiatry. 9 questions.

Reading Skills Tested

You'll have 47 questions; might as well figure out the 16 skills those questions are designed to measure! On this exam, you should be able to do the following:

Information in the text:

  1. Identify information and ideas explicitly stated in text
  2. Draw reasonable inferences and logical conclusions from text
  3. Apply information and ideas in a text to a new, parallel situation
  4. Cite the textual evidence that best supports a given claim or point.
  5. Identify stated or implied main ideas of text
  6. Identify a reasonable summary of a text or of key information and ideas in text.
  7. Identify explicitly stated relationships or determine implicit relationships between and among individuals, events, or ideas (e.g., cause-effect, comparison-contrast, sequence)
  8. Determine the meaning of words and phrases in context.

Linguistic analysis of the text:

  1. Determine how the selection of specific words and phrases or the use of patterns of words and phrases shapes meaning and tone in text.
  2. Describe the overall structure of a text
  3. Analyze the relationship between a particular part of a text (e.g., a sentence) and the whole text
  4. Determine the point of view or perspective from which a text is related or the influence this point of view or perspective has on content and style.
  5. Determine the main or most likely purpose of a text or of a particular part of a text (typically, one or more paragraphs).
  6. Identify claims and counterclaims explicitly stated in text or determine implicit claims and counterclaims from text.
  7. Assess an author’s reasoning for soundness.
  8. Assess how an author uses or fails to use evidence to support a claim or counterclaim.

Preparing for the Redesigned PSAT Reading Test

Sample questions to help students prepare are available on