First Full-Length PSAT Writing Test: Post-Mortem

Today, we’re continuing my short series on the recently released official new PSAT, which is slotted to roll out in late 2015.

In Part 1, I unveiled my general impressions about the test.
In Part 2, I explored the new reading section in-depth.

Now, we’re onto Part 3: Writing and Language (basically grammar and rhetoric).

This new PSAT section is straight up the ACT English section now! The SAT ripped off the ACT, down to the very format! There may not be the same number of questions per story as the ACT English passages, but honestly, I’m not sure how the Collegeboard is able to get away with copyright issues here.

Current ACT English

PSAT Writing






The current SAT Writing section is predominantly a bunch of isolated, single sentences—you just fix the errors. But now, the PSAT gives you full stories with various underlined portions that you have to fix. Just like the ACT English, the new SAT Writing asks many rhetoric questions dealing with whether the author should insert or delete a phrase, how to reorder the sentences, how to best conclude a paragraph, or things of that nature. These sorts of questions are relegated to a short 6-question short story passage on the current SAT, but now all Writing/Language questions are like this.

Pre-SAT Writing Sentence ImprovementsPre-SAT Writing Error ID






The PSAT is testing additional rules now too, especially with commas (rules that have long been tested on the current ACT). On this particular PSAT, I don’t recall any tough subject-verb agreement or pronoun issues though, which have been staples on the current SAT.

This mock PSAT also added a graph. In essence, you’re asked to translate the visual data into English ideas.

New PSAT Writing Graph

I’m indifferent about changes to this section. I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal for most people. Mainly, the format is different with a slight shift in emphasis on which specific grammar rules are tested. I still think this section will maintain its reputation as the easiest section to improve in quickly and most dramatically.

If you’re wondering about the essay, remember the PSAT doesn’t have an essay (never has). It’s the normal SAT (both new and old) that includes an essay, though the essay will be completely different come March 2016. In my opinion, it’s going to be much harder, but much more closely aligned with DBQs (document-based questions) at school. You can no longer make stuff up out of thin air like you’re able to do now.

Instead, the test will provide you with a text from which you must draw your evidence and analysis. You must support your points—the same stuff you do at school. The new SAT essay will also now be optional, though it’s still not really optional if you plan to apply for any top colleges, which will likely still require you take the essay portion of the SAT (same with the ACT essay).

By the way, the ACT essay is changing too, but that’s another story.

Tomorrow, we’ll dive into the final section, math!

Stay tuned, folks!

Part 1: New PSAT General Impressions
Part 2: New PSAT Reading Post-Mortem
Part 3: New PSAT Writing & Language Post-Mortem (this is the current post)
Part 4: New PSAT Math

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