How the PSAT Has Changed/Is Changing (Depending on the Research)

The PSAT has changed since it was initially used as a standardized test. In 1971, the PSAT became the official test for achieving scholarships and came to be known as the PSAT/NMSQT test. The pattern of the PSAT test has evolved over the years due to the financial objectives of the test.

Early PSAT

The earlier forms of the PSAT test were different to the new PSAT or current version of the test. For example, earlier the PSAT included only the Math and Verbal sections. The old PSAT included the Test of Standard Written English (TSWE).

New PSAT Sections

In 1997, the old PSAT was revamped to take the form of the new PSAT. The Writing Skills section was introduced in 1997. The new PSAT now includes three clearly defined sections:

  • Critical Reading: This section requires you to answer questions based on a passage and complete sentences with the best-fit option. This section tests your knowledge of vocabulary and your understanding and usage of terms.
  • Math: This section tests your understanding of mathematical concepts and expressions. You should be able to apply the mathematical concepts to solve the given problems. Although you are permitted to use calculators, you must ensure that you do not use the calculator to solve each question.
  • Writing Skills: This section tests your ability to identify appropriate expressions, identify faults in word usage and sentence structure, and revise sentences and paragraphs. The Writing Skills section mostly tests your language skills but does not require you to write essays or define grammatical terminologies.

The following table summarizes the new PSAT test sections, the time allotted for each section and the types of questions asked in the new PSAT:


Time (in minutes)

Question Type

Total Number of Questions

Critical Reading-2 sections


Sentence completion- 13


Passage-based reading- 35

Math-2 sections


Multiple choice- 28


Grid-in responses- 10



Improving sentences- 20


Identifying sentence errors- 14

Improving paragraphs-5

PSAT Question Types

The types of questions asked in the new PSAT are segregated further.

  • Critical Reading
    • Sentence Completion: Sentence completion questions are fill-in-the-blanks type of questions wherein you need to select the appropriate word (or words) for the blanks provided.
    • Passage-based Reading questions: You need to answer questions based on the information provided in the passage.

  • Math
    • Multiple-choice questions: You need to select the correct answer after solving the question.
    • Student-produced responses or grid-ins: Grid-in questions do not include any answer choices. You need to solve 10 questions and enter your answers in the grids provided on the answer sheet. Make sure that you check your grid to see whether the response you have written matches the circles in the column.

  • Writing Skills
    • Improving Sentences: You need to select the answer that fits into the sentence in the best possible manner.
    • Identifying Sentence Errors: You need to locate errors in the sentences provided.
    • Improving Paragraphs: You need to select the answer that improves the sentence structure so that the passage reads logically.


The scoring method in the new PSAT is as follows:

  • One point for every correct answer
  • 1/4th point deducted for an incorrect answer
  • Zero points for unanswered questions
  • No points deducted for incorrect responses to grid-in questions

A raw score is calculated first by totalling the points. The raw score is then converted to the equivalent score on the PSAT scale. The PSAT score ranges from 20-80.

Thus, the new PSAT is different in many ways from the initial version of the PSAT test. Sections have been added based on the inputs from test-takers as well as research conducted over the years. The PSAT test has evolved to be an impartial test and it is formulated to be as standardized as possible for the variety of test takers.

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