By: Ben Sexton In one of the more anticipated score returns in recent memory, the first batch of Digital PSAT results were released Monday. Students had widely claimed that they “liked the Digital PSAT better” and that “the test felt a lot easier,” so I was certainly eager to see if the numbers backed those feelings up.
Based on the numbers I’ve seen so far, the answer is some yes, some no. Nationally, the average PSAT score was 988 (out of 1520), which is about what one would expect. However, a report from a large national tutoring company indicates that a significantly higher number of testers scored in the top 1400-1520 range than they had in previous years, suggesting that for high-scorers, the test was in fact “easier.” Among my students, Math scores in particular stood out, which matches up with what students said about the Math being easier. Critical Reading scores were a bit lower, which jibes with the SAT’s historical reputation of having a difficult Reading section.
With a shorter test, shorter critical reading passages, a dynamic onscreen calculator, and faster score returns than ever before, the Digital SAT is winning the test marketing wars. This phenomenon of the “new, easier test” is not new, as we witnessed a similar occurrence in 2015 when the current version of the paper-and-pencil SAT was released. That time, the SAT faced significant pressure from the ACT, which was then growing in popularity. However, this time, the ACT is going to have a tough time selling itself as a longer test with longer reading passages.
Now that PSAT scores are back, what should students do with them? One drawback to this new test is that the test reports contain significantly less information. First of all, the test questions are no longer released, for this or any other SAT. Secondly, the subscores give very little information: Math subscores, for instance, contain only four categories – Algebra, Advanced Math, Data Analysis, and Geometry/Trigonometry – that are graded from 1-7. Feedback that broad can help guide student studying only in the most general sense.
Nonetheless, one good option that is back in play for SAT prep is Khan Academy (KA). Widely used in 2015 and 2016, Khan Academy’s SAT preparation platform fell mostly off the radar as more practice SATs became available. But, now that we’re back to only a few practice tests, the KA platform is important again. If you link your College Board account to KA, you can export your PSAT results and the platform can give you feedback about where to focus your studying and practice problems organized by topic and skill level.
The early score returns give you plenty of time to prepare for the March SAT, whether with KA, the Bluebook practice app, a tutor, or all of the above. With student feedback being widely positive, we expect the Digital SAT will be pretty popular. For the first time in a long time, it’s a test students don’t seem to mind. And if favorable scoring holds up for the next couple of years, then all the better.
We provide Digital SAT classes, classes for students transitioning from the paper-and-pencil SAT to the Digital, and one-on-one tutoring that utilizes my new Digital SAT book and curriculum. Contact us with any questions or to learn how we can help you prepare.