The New PSAT- Redesigned in 2015: Complete Guide

If you are a high school student planning to take the PSAT, you will take the newly designed PSAT. This new version of the test, which began in October 2015, was given to all students across the country.

We’ll go over the PSAT format, scoring, and content, as well as what you need to understand to be prepared. The 2015 PSAT is not only an important step in preparing for the SAT, but it also qualifies you for National Merit awards and scholarships.

Let’s look at the adjustments to the format, scoring, and content of the redesigned PSAT and what they mean for your test prep.

Format Modifications

The new PSAT, which has been redesigned, is 35 minutes longer than the old PSAT. It lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes instead of 2 hours and 10 minutes. The PSAT now only has four lots of answers instead of five. This means that if you guess, you have a better shot at getting the correct answer!

The time and number of questions per section are broken down in the chart below:







Number of Questions

Reading 60 minutes 48 questions
Writing and Language 35 minutes 44 questions
Math 70 minutes 47 questions
Total 165 minutes 139 questions

What Do the New PSAT Format Changes Mean for Your Preparation?

Since the new test is more extended, focus on more practice. There aren’t many official practice tests because the test is still relatively new. So far, the College Board has released two official sample PSATs that you can download and score. Take note of the differences between this test and previous versions.

New PSAT Practice Test 1



Explanations for Answers



Score Your Exam

New PSAT Practice Test 2



Explanations for Answers



Score Your Exam

Even though having only two practice tests limits your options, using older practice tests is a good idea. If you’re practicing with full-length old practice tests, add an extra section to practice test-taking for that longer period of time. Keep track of your energy and concentration as you practice. Take short breaks and do whatever else is necessary to maintain focus for that amount of time.

The latest PSAT is also very similar to the new SAT, introduced in March of 2016. Except for maybe the absence of an essay on the PSAT, the two tests are very similar in content, format, and even scoring. As a result, you can use these 10 new SAT practice tests to prepare while also monitoring out for any differences between the new PSAT and new SAT. (The College Board’s website no longer includes tests 2 and 4, but you can still access them using the links below.)

New SAT Practice Test 1



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 2



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 3



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 4



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 5



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 6



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 7



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 8



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 9



Answer Key



New SAT Practice Test 10



Answer Key


The new PSAT points system is intended to help you predict your SAT score. I’ll explain the variations in the scoring system for both the new PSAT and the new SAT below and how you can incorporate this knowledge into your studying.

Score Adjustments

The redesigned PSAT is graded on a scale of 320 to 1520. Math scores range from 160 to 760, and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing scores range from 160 to 760. In addition to these section scores, your score report will include sub-scores for Math, Reading, Writing, and Language ranging from 8 to 38. This will give you an idea of which sections you excel at and where you need to improve. Unlike the old PSAT, the new PSAT has no fines for incorrect answers.

Prior to 2005, the SAT started using the previous 1600 scoring system. It now has a specified maximum composite score of 800 for Math and 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. As previously stated, your PSAT score is supposed to predict your SAT score.

Because the SAT is a more challenging task than the PSAT, the PSAT scale does not go all the way up to 1600. While a 1300 on the PSAT indicates that you might get a 1300 on the SAT, a perfect PSAT score does not assure perfection on the SAT.

The two scoring scales are identical, but the PSAT is scaled down to account for the differences in the level of difficulty. Keep this disparity in mind when analyzing your PSAT scores from practice tests and the actual test.

Unsatisfied with your PSAT results? Do you want to raise your PSAT score by 150 points? We have the best PSAT prep program in the industry. Built by Harvard graduates and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses using advanced statistics, then tailors your prep program to ensure you get the most effective preparation possible.

Take advantage of our 5-day free trial today:

What Do the New PSAT Scoring Changes Mean for Your Preparation?

Since this wrong answer penalty has been removed, you no longer need to formulate a strategy for which questions to guess and leave blank. Even if you’re unsure, give them all your best guess. If you leave any blanks, make sure to leave sufficient time to bubble in all of your answers at the end of each section.

When taking a practice test, please make a note of which questions are random guesses so you can go over them after you’ve finished. To get the most out of your practice tests, consider why you missed a question and what you should do (review content, work faster, etc.) to incorporate that question type the next time.

Because the National Merit Scholarship Corporation considers your average index rather than your section scores, all sections are essential for qualifying for National Merit Semifinalist, Finalist, and Scholarship positions.

Content Modifications

The adjustments to the PSAT content correspond to the revisions to the SAT. The content is proof and context-based, generally with real-life situations and data analysis. Depth of evaluation, interpretation of a word or concept in context, and multi-step problem solving are all emphasized skills. On College Board, look at the “Skills Crosswalk” for all three sections.

The days of memorizing long lists of obscure vocabulary are over; the new PSAT (and SAT) tests your understanding of the meaning and connotation of a word within the context of a passage. Likewise, grammar questions require you to revise sentences in the context of passages rather than as stand-alone sentences.

Graphs and charts will be used in all sections to assess your ability to comprehend, describe, and represent data visually or in words. The illustration below is from the College Board’s New PSAT Sample Questions for the math section.

Multi-step grid-in word problems are also included in the math questions. They will concentrate on algebra and data analysis rather than geometry. The remaining geometry problems require you to solve problems involving area, volume, line, angle, and triangle theorems.

What Does This Mean for Your Preparation?

Concentrate on honing your problem-solving, data interpretation, grammar, and vocabulary comprehension through context. These abilities are more closely related to what you learn in class and in real life. You can improve them by reading widely and frequently, as well as paying attention to data representation and analysis in your math and science classes.

Take notes on the structure and organization of the work as you read. Take into account the passage’s theme, tone, style, and so on, and make sure you can tell the specific lines that support your ideas.

Instead of memorizing vocabulary lists, try to understand the different connotations of words in other contexts. For instance, “brilliant” may mean outstandingly smart when characterizing a person, but it implies bright and vivid when describing a color.

Most of those skills and knowledge being tested are the same as on the old PSAT—understanding of literary terms and elements, depth of analysis and evaluation, and working knowledge of different mathematical concepts.

The new PSAT requires you to go one step further: support your answer with evidence, either from a passage or a chart, and comprehend the relationships between words and numbers.

Don’t stop there: browse our collection of free PSAT practice questions and full-length tests, as well as learn how to use old practice tests and material to prepare for the new PSAT effectively.

PSAT Comparison Table

The chart below compares key points for the old and new PSAT versions of the exam. This allows you to quickly see some of the most significant differences between the two tests.


Former PSAT




Total Scoring Scale

60-240 320-1520

Section Score Scales

Critical Reading: 20-80


Math: 20-80


Writing: 20-80

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 160-760


Math: 160-760


Testing Time

2 hours and 10 minutes 2 hours and 45 minutes

Number of Answer Choices

5 4

Guessing Penalty

Lose 1/4 point for every incorrect answer No guessing penalty

To Learn More…

Visit the College Board’s website to learn more about the changes made by the test makers. Because this site discusses both the PSAT and the SAT, you’ll notice similarities in the two redesigns. Unlike the SAT, the PSAT still does not include an essay.

Students taking the PSAT this fall will not have as much practice material as in previous classes, but if you are aware of the changes, you can still prepare effectively and achieve a high score. More and more practice material for the new PSAT will become accessible as time passes.

What Comes Next?

What grades are required to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship? Learn about the new PSAT scoring scale, and what scores qualify.

How do you apply for a National Merit Scholarship? We explain the various types of scholarships and what you need to do to qualify.

Are you interested in the SAT changes that were implemented in 2016? Read our comprehensive guide to the redesigned SAT.

Do you want to ace the SAT? Learn what it takes to be an SAT-perfect scorer.

Do you want to raise your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by four points? We’ve created a guide for each test that outlines the top five strategies you must employ in order to improve your score. Download it today for free at