DIGITAL PSAT PREVIEW: WHAT TO KNOW AND WHAT TO DO

May 25, 2023 
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The era of the paper SAT and PSAT is over. The age of the digital SAT and PSAT has begun…almost. Students will get their first opportunity to take the digital PSAT this fall and the digital SAT the following spring. Meaning, by this time next year only digital versions of the tests will be offered to juniors and seniors. Paper won’t be the only relic, however. The format and content of the tests are also changing. Changes like these naturally inspire a mixture of excitement and dread. Unfortunately, the class of 2025 has the most reason to be anxious, as they will be most affected by the transition. So, if you’ll be taking a PSAT or SAT sometime in the next two years, and you’re confused and concerned about what’s coming, read on for more information about the digital PSAT, including when and how the test is changing and what you can do to best prepare for it and the tests that follow.  

Get Informed: Transition Timing and Content Changes

The transition to digital PSAT (dPSAT) and SAT (dSAT) tests will be gradual rather than all at once, so here are some key dates to remember: 

  • October 2023 (PSAT 8/9) 
  • October 2023 (PSAT/NMSQT)
  • March 2024 (SAT)
  • March 4-April 26 2024 (PSAT 10)

In October of 2023, the first digital tests will be given to eighth and ninth graders taking the PSAT 8/9 and juniors taking the PSAT/NMSQT. For students taking the SAT and the PSAT 10, the changeover happens in March 2024; all students taking the test that March and anytime afterward will take it digitally.

In addition to the scholarship and award opportunities that the PSAT/NMSQT will continue to provide, a benefit of the PSAT/NMSQT going digital in the fall of 2023 is the experience it gives juniors. Aside from the PSAT’s slightly lower difficulty level, the paper PSAT and SAT had a lot in common, and that continues to be true for the digital PSAT. Both tests will be digital and adaptive, and both have one 64-minute Reading and Writing section (54 questions, two 32-minute modules) and one 70-minute Math section (44 questions, two 34-minute modules). Unlike the previous paper test, students taking the digital PSAT will encounter sentence completions and some simple poetry on the verbal section and will need to be skilled with the Desmos calculator for the math section. There also won’t be mandatory breaks; students will take breaks at different times and can even end their test early if finished.

While you can read more about what the digital SAT, and therefore the similarly constructed PSAT, will be like here, the important thing to understand is that because the tests are nearly identical, taking the digital PSAT in October is the best way to discover what weak areas you need to improve for the SAT and to get experience with the digital format before taking the SAT in March.

Get Ready: Preparing for the Digital PSAT and More

A+ recommends that students who get 1200+ diagnostic SAT scores should prepare for the PSAT and SAT at the same time and take the SAT soon after the PSAT. Yet, this fall/winter the PSAT and SAT will be different; preparing for one test won’t directly translate to preparing for the other. Furthermore, if you’re unlikely to score in the top 1% of PSAT scores for your state to become eligible for the National Merit Scholarship, then typically you wouldn’t be advised to do test prep for the PSAT. What is the advantage of taking the digital PSAT this October? The experience alone is worth it. As a junior, you’re probably going to want to take the SAT more than once, so you’ll end up benefiting from the experience when you eventually take the digital SAT anyway, or you’ll benefit because taking the PSAT will help you decide to take the ACT instead. 

Either way, it’s decided. You’re taking the digital PSAT. Now what? The ideal way to go about studying for the PSAT is to approach it as studying for the SAT. The first step in your preparation would be to take a diagnostic SAT and an ACT early this summer before junior year starts. You can take a free proctored paper exam with A+ and you can download the College Board’s Bluebook app and use it to take one of its digital SAT practice tests. If you score below 1200 (SAT) or 25 (ACT), just take the digital PSAT in October for the experience and start test prep around November or December so you can take either the ACT or dSAT in the spring. If you score higher, start test prep this summer for your preferred ACT or SAT, and take the dPSAT in October followed by your first SAT (paper) or ACT in late fall/winter. 

At A+ we will begin offering our own digital practice SATs over the summer, which will include detailed score reports that students and tutors can use to improve test performance. In the meantime, if you’re curious about the digital PSAT, you can take a look at the College Board’s recommendations, including doing practice on Khan Academy and making sure your device is ready.

How A+ Can Help

The transition to the digital PSAT and SAT is something A+ Test Prep and Tutoring has been preparing for since the phaseout of the paper tests was announced. In addition to posting articles discussing the upcoming changes, A+ has been following updates from the College Board, which administers the tests, and from Summit, which provides our test prep curriculum materials. With updated course books that reflect changes to the test and up-to-date knowledge of the tests, A+ tutors and staff are ready to help students succeed whether they take the digital PSAT and SAT or opt to take the paper ACT instead. For more information about our test prep programs you can call our office or visit our website. We look forward to hearing from you!

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Director Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at office@aplustutoring.com.

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