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THE FIRST OFFICIAL NEW PSAT RELEASED: POST-MORTEM REPORT

This week I’m running a guest post by Peter Peng, a full-time, professional test prep strategist and college essay coach, who loves rambling about these tests and college admissions. For another piece of his mind and free SAT/ACT hacks, head on over to www.youngprodigy.com. Stay tuned this month as I run his post-mortems on the individual sections of the PSAT.

So I must be crazy. Guess how I just spent my first full day off in a very long time? Did someone say taking a practice test? We have a winner!

The Collegeboard has finally released its first full-length, official new format PSAT, which will roll out in late 2015. I sat down and decided to take the blasted thing, timed, for fun, and for your education because that’s what I do—nerdy to the max, but you know you love it.

If you want to take a stab at the test yourself, here are the links:

Official New 2015 PSAT Mock Test
Answers and Explanations to the New Mock PSAT

Now keep in mind, this test is so new it doesn’t even come with a grading scale because not even the CollegeBoard knows whether these questions are any good. The test probably represents the style and concepts we can expect to see on the new PSAT and new SAT (coming March 2016), but the spread of difficulty levels is still being worked out. They need real students taking the test to figure out a normative grading curve, so while you can check your answers, you won’t really know what missing, say 5 questions, means to your score. By the way, they are returning to the old 1600 scale from a decade ago, instead of the current 2400 scale.

My first impressions about the test were interesting. I’ll say overall, the test was ostensibly harder than the current SAT. I’d honestly be far more impressed with someone who misses nothing on this new test than someone accomplishing the same feat on the current (soon-to-be old) SAT.

Some portions on this mock PSAT, like the reading, felt about the same level of difficulty. Other sections, like the math, were vastly different, with a new batch of concepts, different tricks, and approaches. These changes all stem from a philosophy to align the new SAT to what students are actually learning at school. Although I was a skeptic at first, on that front, I think they’ve succeeded. I found many of these questions much more resistant to the normal tactics and strategies I usually teach. Answering these questions required a healthy dose of strong academic fundamentals in reading, grammar, and math.

Obviously, all of these impressions must be taken with a huge grain of salt. It’s just one test, so my views here can hardly be comprehensive or representative. Nevertheless, it’s a first look at a scary change.

Timing wise, I didn’t feel crunched for time in any section, so this isn’t going to be like the ACT, which forces students to work extremely quickly. Most students can’t even finish the ACT Reading or Science section in time, but I was able to work leisurely with about 10 minutes to spare in each section on this PSAT.

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