Tag Archives: new

New PSAT Book for Barron’s is done!

I am thrilled to report that I finished my manuscript for the new Barron’s Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT this past week.  This was the most challenging professional task I have ever taken on, given the very short amount of time and the minimal information available about the new PSAT.  Fortunately, I am quite pleased with the 85,000 word final product and I look forward to using it with my students this spring.

I started writing the text in February after signing my contract with Barron’s.  There was just enough information available at that time to create a body of practice and review materials.  I carefully reviewed the College Board test specifications for the new SAT and PSAT, as well as the practice questions they released.  It is fortunate that the new PSAT and SAT are more like the ACT than they were in the past, since I have great familiarity with the ACT having written the most recent Barron’s ACT Guide.

Just a few days before my April 1 deadline, the College Board finally released a full-length sample PSAT.  I had to make a few tweaks to my book materials, but all in all my original materials were very well-aligned with the practice PSAT.

The new PSAT book will feature a number of things that will make it extremely useful for students preparing for the 2015 PSAT:

–Several hundred practice questions, representing the equivalent of over 3 full-length PSAT tests.

–Comprehensive answer explanations to every question, including explanations of why incorrect answers are wrong.

–Extensive strategies and content review.

You can check out the new book here:


Please contact BWS Education for any of your tutoring needs as you prepare for the brand new 2015 PSAT and 2016 SAT.

Major Changes to the PSAT in 2015

I am currently writing the new Barron’s PSAT Guide, so I have become very well-versed in what the new PSAT will look like.   Here is my concise summary of the major changes coming to the PSAT this fall:

Current PSAT Vocab:  Students need to spend countless hours memorizing obscure vocabulary words that they will probably not use again.

New PSAT Vocab:  Students focus on deciphering the meaning of words based on context clues.  The potential words are ones that are more widely used in professional settings.

Current PSAT Math:  An emphasis on pure mathematical reasoning, with many problems more akin to IQ test questions than ones that students are very likely to encounter in the real world.

New PSAT Math:  A major shift towards practical word problems, data analysis, statistics, and algebra.  The mathematical concepts are ones used in a variety of careers, both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and non-STEM ones.

Current PSAT Guessing:  There is a quarter point guessing penalty for missed questions.  (If students answer a question correctly, they earn a full point; if they omit it, they receive zero points; if they answer incorrectly, they lose a quarter point).  In my tutoring experience, the guessing penalty drives students nuts as they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to determine whether they should answer a question or leave it blank.

New PSAT Guessing:  There is no guessing penalty–simply answer every question.  Students can devote their mental energy to the problems presented instead of wasting it on trying to decide whether to answer.

Current PSAT Theme:  The current SAT is more a test of pure problem solving skills, with not much of a focus on practical applications.

New PSAT Theme:  No one will be able to justifiably say that there is nothing useful or practical being evaluated on the new SAT.  It has writing passages from career fields, lots of real world mathematical word problems, and reading passages from the great historical & political documents of the U.S. and world.

New ACT Writing Test Coming in 2015

In response to the new, much more rigorous SAT Essay, the ACT is stepping up their essay for the Fall of 2015.  It is no surprise that the ACT is making such a change to the writing section, given that the ACT and SAT try to keep up with one another as far as testing rigor.  Here is a link to a new official practice ACT writing prompt:


What is remaining the same with the new ACT Essay?

  • It will still be optional.  Most colleges will want students to take it, but not all.
  • It will still be a single prompt.
  • It will still be scored between 2 and 12.
  • It will still NOT impact the overall 1-36 composite ACT score, but will be reported on the general score report.
  • It will continue to be a test of general writing and critical thinking ability–students will not need to have any specific background knowledge to respond.

What is changing with the new ACT Essay?

  • Students will be encouraged to gather their thoughts and pre-write more in-depth.  There will be a separate pre-writing sheet for this purpose.
  • The essay prompts will move away from the school & current event focus they currently have and shift more towards more general intellectual questions.
  • Students will have to evaluate three different perspectives on the topic.
  • Students will receive more comprehensive scoring.  In addition to the 2-12 overall score, they will receive scores in the following sub-domains:  ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use.
  • We do not yet know how long the new ACT Writing test will be.  I would imagine it will be in the 40-50 minute range as opposed to the current 30 minutes.  We should find this out in the coming months.

What can students do to prepare for the new ACT Writing test?

Work on their analytical writing skills by engaging in intellectual dialogue and argumentation, both spoken and written.  Students will be expected to do the following critical thinking tasks on the new essay:

  • Evaluate and analyze different perspectives.
  • State and develop their own perspectives.
  • Explain the relationship between their perspective and the perspectives provided in the prompt.

The more comfortable students become with being able to articulate their viewpoint and analyze the viewpoints of others, the easier this writing task will be.