National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test / PSAT Changes
College Board announced in early 2022 that it will offer the PSAT/NMSQT® and SAT® tests digitally starting in 2023 and 2024.
The testing organization will administer the first digital PSAT test in fall of 2023. College Board recently confirmed that the fall of 2023 PSAT test will be the first digital test available. However, any national SAT tests or SAT School Day tests administered during a school test day in the fall of 2023 will be on paper.
This is not the first time that College Board has made significant changes to the tests, and it won’t be the last! However, the shift to an online format will involve some major changes to how the students take the tests and how certain questions are formatted.
What does “going digital” really mean for the PSAT?
The test will take place on a laptop or tablet through an exam application developed by the College Board. This application will need to be downloaded to the device prior to test day. Students can use personal or school-issued devices.
Basic format changes of the PSAT
The shift to digital will fundamentally change how College Board administers the test. Here are some basic, yet significant, format changes that students will need to prepare for:
• The PSAT test will last approximately two hours, which reduces overall testing time by about an hour.
• The new digital format will be adaptive, meaning it will vary from student to student.
• The new digital format will consist of two modules of varying difficulty. After the first module, one of two potential second-stage modules will be administered. The difficulty of module 2 is dependent on module 1 performance.
• On the digital version, questions that test similar skills and knowledge are grouped together and arranged from easiest to hardest.
Change to the reading and writing sections of the PSAT
• The digital version of the test will feature more direct questions and short excerpts instead of full-length reading passages: 25-150 words per passage compared to 350-750 words per passage on the current version, with one question per “passage.”
• Average time per question on the new digital format is 1.19 minutes compared to 1.25 minutes on the current version.
• On the reading section, there will be no more line references on the new digital version. Instead, portions of text are underlined.
• On the reading section of the digital version, “Craft & Structure” makes up 28% of the questions, with “Information and Ideas” accounting for 26% of the questions.
• On the writing section of the new digital test, “Standard English Conventions” accounts for 26% of the questions (compared to 21% on the current version), and “Expression of Ideas” 20% (compared to 25% on the current version).
How will this change the math sections of the PSAT/SAT tests?
• Students will be allowed to use calculators on every math question of the new digital test. Students can use their own calculator or use the calculator built into the exam application.
• Average time per question is 1.6 minutes on the new digital format, compared to 1.25 minutes (no calculator) and 1.45 minutes (with calculator) on the current version.
• The new digital test will contain shorter word problems—generally 50 words or less.
• “Grid-ins” are now called “free response.”
• The same four concepts are tested: Algebra I and II, geometry, and trigonometry.