Redesigned PSAT Writing Section Reflection

16 minutes.  That's how much time I had remaining when I finished taking the 2015 practice PSAT Writing section (section 2).  And I took it in a bustling Barnes & Noble Cafe.  Now, granted, I've been swimming in standardized tests for a decade, so I'm (hopefully) quicker than the average student.  But still.  16 minutes.

The section is 35 minutes and 44 questions.  For me, there's a comfortableness about it that comes from my intense familiarity with the ACT English Test.  Take a look:

 From the ACT Abbreviated Test Booklet

From the ACT Abbreviated Test Booklet

versus

 From the 2015 Practice PSAT

From the 2015 Practice PSAT

So I'm lulled into this sense of "I got this" when two data analysis questions shake me awake.  Here's where the PSAT Writing takes a departure from the ACT English in the College Board's quest for relevance and for evidence-based thinking.  Both of these questions on the practice PSAT ask the test-taker to choose the "accurate interpretation of the data in the chart," with a bar graph provided.  In both the new PSAT and the new SAT, science is presented as interdisciplinary, popping up in Writing, Reading, and Math.  Students will also be given science subscores which will quantify their performances on these questions across all of the sections.  Although most of the PSAT Writing section is about grammar and rhetoric, science- and evidence-based questions are not off-limits!

One other minor difference is that vocabulary popped up on this section on one of the 44 questions (asking the best synonyms for "prosaic directives" that would fit with the tone of the passage).  "But I thought the redesigned test didn't have any vocabulary questions!?" you exclaim.  You're right, sort of.  There are no pure fill-in-the-blank vocab questions like on the current test, but vocabulary testing did not fall off the test completely.  Again, the College Board wants to stress relevancy, so it has incorporated vocab questions into other contexts.  While this question and the data questions don't fall into one's typical idea of a grammar/rhetoric test, especially if one is accustomed to the ACT English, this Writing section on the whole will feel comfortable for students with at least moderately capable grammar and writing skills.

And what to do with all of that extra time?  CHECK YOUR WORK!  Or rest up for the hour and ten minutes of math that is about to hit you.