The College Board finally released a full practice PSAT/NMSQT Practice Test in the new format. I’ve deliberately tried to steer clear of the previously released questions so that I might be able to evaluate the new PSAT with fresh eyes. But as I reviewed each section of this new test, I couldn’t help but recognize a lot of familiar features…
1. A 60-minute Reading section seems very long. On the other hand, 47 questions in 60 minutes allows a lot of extra time.
2. The College Board appears to be running as far as possible from its old policy of testing advanced vocabulary words. Not only are Sentence Completions gone, but the contextual vocabulary questions here focus on relatively common words.
3. Graphs seem misplaced in a Writing and Language Test.
4. The College Board drastically underestimates how much anguish the No Calculator Math Test will cause in modern teens. We may have to go back to teaching multiplication tables.
5. Apparently, the new format test even needs a Science section, which is what the Hubble graph in the Calculator Math Test looks like.
6. SAT Math seems more intimidating than ever. No matter how much easier the Reading Test appears to be, this new SAT isn’t likely to win back ACT fans with such scary math problems.
My bonus reaction is to wonder just how much the College Board is paying ACT, Inc. to copy so much of their format. The new Reading and Writing Tests could definitely pass for ACT sections if the letters of the answer choices were staggered. The similarities between the SAT Writing and ACT English, in terms of both format and question construction, are especially glaring.
Of course, these observations are immediate responses to what is tantamount to seeing an old friend after a transformative event. Perhaps these changes are superficial, hiding everything I respect about the SAT beneath a thin veneer of novelty. Perhaps, though, the transformation has occurred on a more fundamental, more profound level. The next year will tell.
Have you seen the new PSAT yet? What do you think?