The question of whether to take the PSAT/NMSQT crosses the mind of every high school junior. If nothing else, the PSAT provides insight into the more important (from a college admissions perspective) SAT. That explains why my team and I—long out of high school, mind you—pay so much attention to each year’s tests. Kaeti Stoss taught this season’s PSAT review sessions and compiled some valuable notes about the most distinctive aspects of the Saturday and Wednesday PSATs
While the Reading sections adhered to established trends, one notable divergence was the absence of old passages; every passage was published in 1970 or later. These more current passages undoubtedly pleased most students, who tend to abhor the classics. Interestingly, the passages in the Founding Documents category were excerpted from President George H. W. Bush’s famous “thousand points of light” speech and Malala Yousafzai’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.
WRITING AND LANGUAGE
The passages, questions, and content testing in the Writing sections stayed consistent with standard SAT Writing trends. If anything, the test posed more questions on connecting independent and dependent clauses and transitions between paragraphs.
The No-Calculator and Calculator Math sections of the SAT continued to emphasize basic and advanced algebra while downplaying geometry. On a more granular level, the following stood out:
- More unit conversion problems
- More in-depth graphing and functions questions
- More systems of equations questions requiring the substitution method rather than elimination
- More questions analyzing parts of an equation, which seems to be more prevalent on the SAT
All in all, both PSATs signal an SAT that continues to subtly but surely evolve. The SAT differs in some important ways from the PSAT/NMSQT, but lessons learned from the preliminary test lead to greater success on the real thing.