When the College Board released the newest edition of the PSAT late March, the test prep experts at ArborBridge were ready to dissect the entire exam and compile resources guaranteed to help students navigate the updated test. Here we’ll cover the exam’s format, timing, scoring, as well as some of the best prep tips for both American and international students.
4 sections: Reading, Writing & Language, Math (no calculator), Math (calculator)
Total time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Prepping for the New PSAT: Tips for American Students
Prep Level 1: Read through the Sample Test
Why? Knowing what to expect and how to do the test correctly gives a more accurate score on the PSAT so that you can better predict your score on the new SAT.
Every student should at least look at the new test. Read through each section so you know what to expect. Take a look at the order of the sections and how long they are so you don’t get thrown off on test day. Also, read through each set of the instructions so you don’t have to waste valuable time during the real test reading instructions.
Prep Level 2: Take a Practice Test
Who? Most students
Why? Actually experiencing the exam is the most powerful form of prep you can do. You will get a sense of the exam’s pace and the type of content on the exam. You will also have an idea of how well you might expect to do on the real test. You may even discover you could be a contender for National Merit and may want to prep a bit more.
Set aside 3 hours and take the entire released test. Follow the time limits for each section and the rules related to calculator use. Then grade the exam to see how you did.
Prep Level 3: Study for the Test
Who? Those students who are generally top performers at school or in standardized tests and may have a shot at National Merit (top 4% of students in their state); those students who scored above 200 on the old PSAT.
Why? Extra review and practice tests will help ensure your performance on test day is as strong as possible. The National Merit Competition is highly competitive and only the best scores qualify. You increase your chances by truly knowing the test and its content. Keep in mind there are no guarantees this year. Because it’s the first year of the new test, surprises can arise. Preparing may help lessen the impact of the unexpected.
Identify the concepts you are not familiar with or are weak in and spend time reviewing them. Practice with a review book, a tutor, or the free questions that will be available at Khan Academy online. Also use the new SAT samples. The College Board will release only one example of the new PSAT, but there will be four examples of the new SAT out in May. Use these new SATs to prepare for the PSAT. There will be a significant amount of overlap—though you don’t have to worry about the essay you’ll see on the SAT.
Prepping for the New PSAT: Tips for International Students
If your school offers the PSAT, take it.
Not all international schools offer the PSAT and, even if it is offered, many international students don’t take it because they can’t qualify for National Merit. Because the new PSAT will be an excellent way to gauge your performance on the new SAT, make an extra effort to take it and do well on it. It will be one of the few resources that the College Board releases this year, thus the experience will be VERY valuable.
Read through the new exam and possibly take the released exam.
You will get a sense of the exam’s pace and the type of content on the exam. This familiarity will give you a more accurate score on the exam so that you can predict your real SAT score on the new SAT exam.
There is no need to study for the PSAT.
Since international students are not eligible for National Merit, there is little benefit in heavily studying for the PSAT.