Digital PSAT: first practice test released

This fall, the PSAT will change to a new digital adaptive format. This change will affect all students, US-based and international. While we’ve known since 2022 that the PSAT will be going digital, we didn’t know for sure what the new test would look like.

Until now.

The College Board has just released the first official practice test for the digital version of the PSAT. Available through the official Bluebook app, this practice test is specifically for students prepping for the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10.

But don’t run off to take it just yet!

Remember, right now there’s just the one practice test available, so you want to make sure you are getting the most out of it. To help with this, ArborBridge’s curriculum team has already taken, retaken, and dissected this test. In this post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the digital PSAT. What it is, how the changes affect students, and how to prepare for it.

What is the digital PSAT?

The PSAT is a series of exams that are lower-difficulty versions of the SAT. There’s the PSAT 8/9, which 8th- and 9th-grade students can take; the PSAT 10, which 10th-grade students take; and the PSAT/NMSQT, which most students take in the Fall of their junior year. Just like the SAT, these tests separately assess your verbal and mathematical aptitude.

Students take these tests to get a feel for what taking the SAT is like and to potentially qualify for scholarships and special recognitions—including the National Merit Scholarship.

Nothing about that is changing. However, the PSAT’s format and content are changing so that they match the new digital SAT.

For international students, the new PSAT will look identical to the digital SAT they’ve been taking since March of 2023.

In the US, there's still some time before the digital SAT launches in March of 2024. So for US-based students, this fall’s digital PSAT will be their first experience with a digital adaptive test. As a result, the upcoming PSAT will likely play a key role in helping US students decide whether the digital SAT is ultimately the best fit for them.

How is the digital PSAT different from the paper PSAT?

Short answer: the two tests are different in the same ways that the digital SAT is different from the paper SAT.

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Longer answer: Students will take the digital PSAT at school using an approved computer or tablet. The digital test is a little bit shorter than the paper. Instead of being a linear test, where every student sees the same questions, the digital test is multi-stage adaptive—so if you answer enough questions correctly in a section's first question set, the test will give you harder questions in the second set, and you'll be moved into a higher scoring bracket. While most of the same underlying skills are tested, passages and question prompts are shorter, several old question types have been removed, and several new ones have been added. But that’s still just scratching the surface.

For more on all the changes, click here.

How is the digital PSAT different from the digital SAT?

Taking the digital PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 is almost exactly like taking the digital SAT: students complete the same number of questions on the same concepts in the same amount of time. There are just two differences:

  1. PSAT questions are less difficult. This is true across the board, but on the newly-released practice test, our team found it especially noticeable in the higher difficulty Math, the word-in-context questions, and the charts and graphs.
  1. There’s a smaller score range. While a perfect SAT score is a 1600, a perfect PSAT score is a 1520. Why? Well, a student's PSAT score is intended to be predictive of their SAT score, but because the PSAT is less difficult, the exams aren’t comparable in score ranges above 1520.

In what ways is the digital PSAT less difficult than the digital SAT?

There are dozens of ways—subtle and overt—that the test content is made easier. Let's take just one example:

There's a particular passage and data table that show up—with small differences—on both the official practice PSAT and on Practice Test 3 for the digital SAT. (If you’d like to follow along, on the PSAT, it’s question 10 in the first module of the Reading & Writing section; on the SAT, it’s question 10 in the higher-difficulty second module of the same section.)

Both questions utilize the same data and concern the same research study, but the little differences show how the College Board can alter a question and passage to shift their difficulty.

The SAT's answer choices are longer and more complex. In the PSAT's version of this question, answer choices are just a few words each and require students to merely pick an answer that accurately restates data found in the table. However, the SAT’s answer choices are each several lines long and test a student’s ability to first identify a conclusion within the passage and meaningfully use the data as support.

Figures on the PSAT are simpler to navigate. On the PSAT version of this question, rows in the data table are organized in ascending order, smallest to largest. But on the SAT, there’s no apparent order to the rows, making it more challenging for students to identify trends.

Passages on the SAT are more syntactically complex. In this example, the PSAT passage contains no commas or punctuation apart from periods, and there are no transitional words or phrases—a simplicity that makes the text relatively easy to interpret with a single read through. In contrast, the SAT passage is longer, and the structure of its sentences is more varied and complex; for instance, the passage starts with a long introductory clause that makes it challenging to identify the subjects of the first sentence, and the final sentence starts with “however,” establishing a sudden shift in the passage’s focus, which students will have to accurately interpret before they pick the right answer.

How can students prepare for the digital PSAT?

Because the digital PSAT is brand new, there is only a small amount of high-quality practice material available. But since the PSAT and the SAT are so similar, students can use digital SAT practice tests and prep materials to prep for the PSAT.

Until there are more practice tests for the PSAT, we recommend that students start with a diagnostic digital SAT, then save this practice PSAT until closer to their official test date.

If you're a US-based student testing this fall, just remember that even though the PSAT will be digital, the SAT will still be the same old paper-based test until it changes next March—so prepping for the digital PSAT will not prepare you to take the SAT this year.

As you prep, just take care not to rush through the available SAT prep material. Prepping on your own, if you’re not careful, you could easily find yourself in a situation where you’ve exhausted the available practice material but still haven’t hit your target score.

This is where a tutor can help.

At ArborBridge, our tutors have years of experience tutoring students for similarly adaptive tests, such as the GRE and GMAT. We’ve also been helping international students prepare for the digital SAT since the pilot test dates in 2022.

Even though the digital PSAT is new, our team already knows it inside and out, and we know how to help you get the most out of the prep material available.

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, or want to start working with a tutor who specializes in the digital PSAT, reach out to us here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Jordan Browne

About Jordan Browne

In addition to graduating summa cum laude from Emerson College and holding an M.F.A. from Columbia University, Jordan was a Fulbright scholar to Montenegro, where he taught seven courses for the University of Montenegro. Along with teaching writing, rhetoric, and literature at the college level, Jordan has taught test prep for several years in New York public schools and across three continents. Ever since he was young, he’s been the weird one who actually enjoys standardized tests, and, for several years now, he’s taught students of every skill level and background how to like them too—or, at least, how to get the scores they need.

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