Frequently Asked Questions about this Fall’s New Digital Adaptive PSAT

June 26, 2023

Many students and families have questions about this fall’s transition to the new digital adaptive PSAT. Here are some frequently asked questions about this new test to help demystify it and give students a better understanding of what their testing experience will look like in the fall.

Will this year’s PSAT be similar to the PSAT from last year?

No. This fall’s PSAT will be administered digitally and has the exact same structure as the new adaptive digital SAT to give students practice with the new SAT before its release in March of 2024.

Has the College Board released a digital practice PSAT?

The College Board has just released a digital practice PSAT, which can be accessed via the Bluebook testing app. The College Board has released four full-length digital practice SAT tests.

How similar is the Digital PSAT to the Digital SAT?

Almost identical. This fall’s PSAT will have the same structure and question types as the new digital adaptive SAT. The only difference is that some of the most advanced math concepts that will be on the digital adaptive SAT are not on the PSAT – in line with previous PSAT tests.

What is the structure of the Digital PSAT?

Reading & Writing Module 127 questions, 32 minutes
Reading & Writing Module 227 questions, 32 minutes
Math Module 122 questions, 35 minutes
Math Module 222 questions, 35 minutes

Note that this is the same timing, structure and number of questions on the digital adaptive SAT.

What does it mean that the Digital PSAT is adaptive?

Both the Digital PSAT and SAT are section-adaptive. A student’s performance on the first Reading & Writing Module and the first Math module determines the difficulty of the questions that students will see in their second Reading & Writing and second Math modules respectively.

Does that mean students cannot review questions that they’ve previously answered?

No, students can move freely around the questions in any module. Students can skip questions, go back and review questions and change their answers, and flag questions for review just as with a paper and pencil test. The only limitation is once students have completed a module they cannot go back and change their answers to questions in a previous module. They can only work on questions within the module that they are currently in and cannot skip back and forth between the two modules.

Is it true that some questions are worth more than other questions?

Yes, both the digital adaptive PSAT and SAT are adopting what is referred to as item response scoring. With this new scoring, questions are assigned different weights depending on the difficulty and skills needed to answer the question. In addition, each module will have two experimental questions that are unscored and do not impact your overall score. There is no way to determine which two questions are the experimental questions and the specific weighting of each of the other questions. Our general advice is to not focus on the scoring, but rather to focus on answering the question that the student is working on.

Will students know if they got the easier or harder second module?

No, the test does not reveal which second module students received (either the easier or the harder one), either during the test or after when students get their score report back. 

How will students take the Digital PSAT?

Students will use their own laptop or tablet or school issued device. Prior to taking the test, students will need to download the College Board’s testing app Bluebook.

Do students take the Digital PSAT at home or at school?

As with prior PSAT administrations, students will take the PSAT at school, most likely during a regular school day.

When will students take the Digital PSAT?  

Most students will take the digital PSAT in October. In the past, most students took the PSAT on a Wednesday in mid-October. This year, however, the College Board is allowing schools to schedule it any day in October. Some schools may have different groups of students take it on different days. 

Will students be able to have scratch paper?

Yes, you will be given several sheets of paper to write out your work as needed, especially for the math section.

Can students use a calculator?

Yes, you can use a calculator on every math question. The Digital PSAT has the graphing calculator Desmos built into the testing platform, so learning how to use it is a great way to help students prepare. Additionally, students can bring their own personal calculator as long as it is from the list of approved calculators

Will the Digital PSAT offer accommodations?

Yes, students who are on an IEP or 504 and use accommodations in school will be able to request them for the digital PSAT. Students with accommodations including extended time and larger fonts can use the digital testing platform. We encourage students to reach out to their school’s accommodations coordinator to make sure that they receive any accommodations that they are approved for. 

Are the scores staying the same?

Yes, the Digital PSAT will use the same 160-760 scale per section used for last year’s test. Please note that the only change to the scoring is that there will not be Reading and Writing subscores as there are no longer separate Reading and Writing & Language sections.

When will students receive their scores?

Students should get scores back much faster than before. If students take the PSAT in the first half of October, they’ll receive their scores in early November. If students take the PSAT in the second half of October, they will receive their scores in mid-November. Either way, they should have their scores before Thanksgiving. 

Will the PSAT still be used for qualifying for National Merit?

Yes, although the National Merit qualifying score will be different from the one that was previously used, since it previously relied on the Reading and Writing subscores, which will no longer be calculated. We are still waiting for additional information from National Merit as to how they will use the scores from the new Digital PSAT for their competition.

What’s the best way to prepare for the Digital PSAT?

We recommend that students reach out to us to schedule a free digital PSAT practice test, so they are more familiar with the testing platform and the format and type of questions that they will see on digital PSAT in the fall.

Please reach out to us with any questions.

We continue to work hard to keep you current on all of the changes in the testing environment. In addition to providing exceptional test preparation and personalized tutoring, we strive to be a trusted, expert resource for counselors and families navigating the process. If you are looking for professional, thoughtful, personal guidance, experienced tutors, and customized test preparation, we are here for you. Our commitment is to your testing success, on your terms. Contact us if we can help in any way.