New PSAT evokes positive reviews, higher scores; juniors reflect on differences between tests, plan for upcoming SAT

Junior Shriya Nadgauda was awakened by her mother at 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 7, the day that the new PSAT scores were posted.

“You need to wake up! Your father has your PSAT scores,” her mother told her. “You can’t see them until you get ready.”

Nadgauda got dressed and had breakfast, but she was running late so she ended up checking her scores on her father’s phone on the drive to school.

And the news was good! Nadgauda had improved her score from last year. But she wasn’t all that surprised.

“I put a lot of effort into studying for the PSAT, and my scores reflected that,” Nadgauda said.

This year, the College Board revamped both the SAT and the PSAT. Significant changes for the SAT and PSAT tests include that students are no longer penalized for wrong answers and that the test questions contain more familiar vocabulary.

The junior class, the only one that’s taken both the new and old tests, was polled before and after receiving scores to compare the two tests.

On Oct. 20, 28 juniors were polled about the new PSAT.
Marigot Fackenthal
On Oct. 20, 28 juniors were polled about the new PSAT.

In an Oct. 20 poll, juniors were asked whether they preferred the new test, preferred the old test, or had no preference. Of the 28 juniors polled, 24 said that they either favored the new test or had no preference.

Only four said they favored the old test, and three of the four agreed that they preferred it because the math problems were harder on the new test.

On the reading section, the juniors were split down the middle. Five said they preferred the old test, while another five said they preferred the new. The rest of the juniors had no preference.

Of the students that preferred the old reading sections, many argued that a lot of questions were based on answers to previous questions, and that the questions were often asked ambiguously.

“There were questions that were based on previous answers,” junior Austin Talamantes said. “So if you didn’t understand the previous questions, you got the next question wrong.”

Students who preferred the new test said that it had easier vocabulary, longer passages, and more user-friendly questions.

“The stories were more interesting, so while reading I was much more engaged,” junior Avi Bhullar said. “When I got to the questions, I remembered more.”

The last section, the writing portion of the test, was nearly unanimously preferred on the new PSAT. Reasons ranged from its being simpler to students completing it faster.

The juniors had promising results. In a second poll on Jan. 26, when the juniors knew their scores on the new test, the juniors all said they did either the same as or better than last year’s assessment, with 18 of 25 juniors stating that they did “much better.”

For all four portions of the test, 15-20 juniors said that they improved over their scores from last year. Fewer than five people  per section said that they did worse on the new test.

Before the arrival of the new test, math teacher Chris Millsback and English teacher Jane Bauman offered an after-school class to prepare for it.

Bauman said that the PSAT prep class had 34 students, 19 of whom were juniors.

“There were more juniors than usual this year,” she said.

However, any junior who didn’t want to take the class or buy the study book could always head online. Bauman said that all four of the sample tests online are the same as the sample tests in the College Board preparation book.

The College Board also has an app and website that sends a daily SAT question to users. After answering a question, the student can see the correct answer and an analysis of why it’s correct.

In addition, Khan Academy has teamed up with the College Board to provide math practice for the new SAT, which begins in March.

However, Bauman said that the College Board book is the only book to use for studying.

“The College Board and Khan Academy materials are in sync with the new test, but the test is too new for other sources,” Bauman said.

She also said that students taking the new SAT need to prepare to concentrate for an hour on the reading section. And she advised them to buy a cheap wristwatch and manage their time well.

—By Quin LaComb

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