Students Find This Year’s PSAT Easier Than the Paper-and-Pencil Test

The Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) has long been regarded as a pivotal step in the college admissions process. Every year, students across the United States eagerly anticipate this standardized test as a practice run for the SAT and, in junior year, a chance to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. However, recent reports indicate that this year’s digital version of the PSAT was met with a collective sigh of relief, with many students deeming it easier compared to the traditional paper-and-pencil format.

Traditionally administered on paper, the PSAT took a significant digital leap this year. The shift from paper to computer-based testing has introduced various changes in the test-taking experience, and this year's iteration raised some eyebrows. Students who had previously taken the traditional PSAT reported that the digital format felt notably easier.

One of the most significant changes students noticed was in the math section, where the digital platform offered tools like an embedded Desmos calculator, which students who knew how to use, found more helpful than their own calculator. This feature not only had enhanced graphing capabilities, but also allowed students to focus more on problem-solving strategies, rather than getting bogged down by manual calculations needed for the former PSAT’s no-calc math section.

Overall, the transition to a digital format for the PSAT seems to have been well-received by students, with many acknowledging that it felt more intuitive and user-friendly than the traditional paper-and-pencil test. While it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue in the coming years, the easier experience could encourage more students to take the test seriously as a stepping stone towards achieving their academic and career aspirations.

The reality, however, is that every PSAT is based on percentiles, which are not changing. For example, a 1350 is the 94 th percentile of all juniors who take the test. This does not change. Since this year’s PSAT had fewer questions than it did in years past, each wrong answer will be a greater detriment to a student’s score. Fewer questions wrong will lead to that same 1350…so, in the end, it is all a wash.

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