What is the PSAT 8/9?

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The PSAT 8/9 is the first in CollegeBoard’s sequence of the “SAT Suite of Assessments”.  For 8th and 9th graders, the test can establish a starting point in terms of college and career readiness and can offer valuable practice for future standardized tests.

 

To learn about this important new test offering and how you can take advantage of it, don’t miss all the info in this CollegeVine post.

 

What Is the PSAT 8/9?

 

The PSAT 8/9 is the first in the CollegeBoard’s sequence of standardized tests leading up to the SAT. The test is uniquely designed not to test core content knowledge so much as the precise skills and thought processes most closely linked with college and career success. When used with the PSAT 10, PSAT, and SAT, a student gets a clear vision of their path towards college and careers.

 

Additionally, the PSAT 8/9 provides students with a complete score report broken down into specific targetable areas. This allows plenty of time for intervention when a student is identified as needing extra support leading up to other standardized tests and ultimately college or careers. Basically, the PSAT 8/9 sets a baseline that allows students and teachers to target certain areas for improvement as a student progresses through high school.

 

What’s on the PSAT 8/9?

 

Like most of the other standardized tests offered by the CollegeBoard, the PSAT 8/9 assesses skills in three testing areas: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. You won’t be asked to recall specific facts or content knowledge from your classwork in reading, history, or science, and you won’t be asked to to complete math formulas, because this test is designed specially to measure your reasoning and critical thinking skills.

 

The reading section of the PSAT 8/9 lasts for 55 minutes and in it, you’ll answer 42 multiple choice questions that are based on reading passages between 500-750 words long. The passages cover all kinds of subject matter, from history, to science, to world literature. Some passages will be accompanied by tables or other graphics that you’ll be asked to interpret, but none in this section will require any math computation.

 

The writing section of the PSAT 8/9 consists of 40 passage-based multiple choice questions. These questions ask you to make revisions and edit the passages for grammatical and punctuation errors. As in the reading section, these passages will cover a broad variety of content, from history, to science, to world literature, and some will be accompanied by tables or other graphics that you’ll need to consider as you edit and revise. You’ll have 30 minutes to complete the writing section of the test.

 

The math section of the PSAT 8/9, you’ll be asked to solve problems by choosing the most appropriate approaches and tools. Math content will cover skills in three primary areas: the Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. There are 38 questions in total, with 31 being multiple choice and seven being student-produced responses. There is a 20 minute section on which no calculator is allowed, and a 40 minute section that allows the use of a calculator.

 

You can learn more about each section of the test and even find sample questions and answer explanations in the CollegeBoard’s pamphlet PSAT 8/9 Student Guide.  

What does your PSAT score mean?

With our free PSAT score analysis, we'll help you understand what your score means and develop a custom tutoring plan to help you reach your goals.

How Is the PSAT 8/9 Scored?

 

Your score report will be sent to your school about two months after you take the test. It contains a multitude of useful information, so be sure to review it closely. If you don’t understand every part of it, ask to meet with a counselor to discuss it more.

 

Students who take the test receive two section scores—one covers both the reading, and the writing and language sections, while the other covers the math section. Section scores on the PSAT range from 120 to 720, so composite scores (which combine them) range from 240 to 1440. Students also receive individual section sub scores for each of the three sections ranging from 6-36.

 

You’ll also receive cross-test scores showing how you performed in various content areas, like history or social sciences, across the entire test. In addition, you score report will also show the correct answers, the answers you gave, and the difficulty level of each question.

 

What to Do Once You Get Your Scores Back?

 

The CollegeBoard provides a wealth of resources for you to use as you move forward from the PSAT 8/9. After taking the PSAT 8/9, students can use a CollegeBoard feature called Roadmap to Careers that allows them to explore majors and careers that align with their personal interests. Students who use this service will also get ideas for small, actionable steps they can take to make informed choices about their futures with regards to college and career goals. Students should visit Roadmap to Careers to learn more.

 

In addition, students should use their score reports to help guide their practice and future standardized test prep. Before the SAT, many students will take the PSAT 10 and the PSAT. These tests will provide even more data points to consider.

 

Not every student needs to take the PSAT 8/9, but those who hope to achieve National Merit Scholarship recognition on the PSAT, are particularly well suited to it as it allows even more time for them to develop a focused study plan leading up to the test. Students who want to excel on the SAT may get a head start from the PSAT 8/9, but with the introduction of the PSAT 10, there are still several other opportunities to work on test specific skills and build a targeted study plan based on your earlier performances.

 

To learn more about test prep, especially when it comes to the SAT, head over to CollegeVine’s SAT Tutoring Program, where the brightest and most qualified tutors in the industry guide students to an average score increase of 250 points.

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.