This October, the PSAT will be fully digital in the US, prefacing the Digital SAT in March of 2024.
The video webinar above covers everything in this blog below.
We’ll be covering the the purpose of the PSAT & SAT exams, the new digital exam format, adaptive testing, timeline and even test prep so that you can be fully prepared.
The Digital PSAT & NMSQT
Future scholars and parents! So, the PSAT, or the Pre-SAT, can be thought of like a warm-up before the big race of standardized testing. Students take this exam in the fall of their Junior year and the exam also doubles as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Which means if students nail it, they will receive up to $2500 for college.
We can see the cutoffs for each state in the figure below. Student’s PSAT scores will range from 400-1520, and this will then be scaled into an index score between 48 to 228. Depending on where you live, the threshold to make the cut as a semi-finalist will vary. Students in Pittsburgh, PA will need a PSAT score of about 1470 (approx. 218) while those who reside in Butte, Montana will only require a score of about 1380 (approx. 207).
Digital PSAT and SAT Exam Format
Here’s the nitty-gritty on the new Digital PSAT and the Digital SAT.
The new Digital PSAT is offered in mid-October for juniors, while the Digital SAT will be administered from march 2024 onwards, following the same seven administration date schedule as the old paper-based exams.
The tests can be taken on your laptop or with one provided to you from your school.
The Digital PSAT and Digital SAT (I like to call them “DigiSAT”) both have the same format! We have two main subject areas, broken up into two sections (or “modules”) each. They are:
- Reading & Writing: 2 sections of 25 questions plus 2 experimentals in 32 minutes each
- Break: 10 minutes (time to drank yo’ Gatorade here)
- Math: 2 sections of 20 questions plus 2 experimentals in 35 minutes each
Since the test is all-digital, the exam will self-time and students will have the ability to go back & forth within each section. If for any reason the test is interrupted due to a power outage or battery dying (we’ve all been there!) the app will automatically record where you left off and resume when you log back in, so don’t fret!
In the Math section, an online calculator is available via DESMOS but I’d recommend you to take your trusty TI-89 with you to the test. Make sure the battery is fully charged the night before though!
Let’s unravel the mystery of an adaptive test in plain English. The new digital PSAT and digital SAT are both section adaptive exams, meaning the test will adapt to the student’s skill level after the first section is complete.
We’ve done some research here at Pittsburgh Prep, and here’s what we found:
- The first section is a good mixture of easy, medium and hard questions
- Student will start with an initially assumed score of 500 (50%) at the beginning of the test
- If students get about 16 questions correct in the first section, they will then get a harder 2nd section that will allow them to score between the ranges of 640-800
- Whereas students who get less than 16 questions correctly will then tackle an easier 2nd set of questions with a maximum score of 200-630
We won’t get into it here, but the new Digital exams feature scoring using Item Response Theory (IRT) that values questions differently from each other. Suffice it to say, a mixture of the TYPES of questions and the NUMBER of correct answers will both determine whether the test taker gets a harder section (or not).
Note that these are purely based upon our initial research from taking the official set of Collegeboard Digital SAT suite of exams so take all of the above with a grain of salt! We will know more once the Digital Suite of Exams arrives Stateside soon.
Students should prepare for the Digital PSAT now for the upcoming October exam, and then begin to prep for the March Digital SAT exam in late December or early January. This will provide ample time to prepare for the exams.
Just remember that study materials are scarce at this time! The Collegeboard has only 4 Digital Adaptive SAT exams, and 1 Digital Adaptive PSAT exam so use these wisely and timely. Khan Academy has a few questions in its question bank as well.
Test Prep (with Pittsburgh Prep!)
We’ve broken down the sections and reviewed each type of question that will be seen by students on the actual test. We go over how to successfully navigate through them in the webinar video starting at approximately the 25th minute in the video lesson for if you’re a student, this part of the video will be super valuable for you and your test prep.
We also have been hard at work at Pittsburgh Prep! We will have a brand new digital curriculum ready to launch by January 2024, so we’ll be sure to keep you updated on our programming as it develops.