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Redesigned PSAT Shifts Preparation Efforts For High School Students

Students taking the PSAT in the fall of 2015 will see a newly designed test. (Sam UL/Flickr Creative Commons)
Students taking the PSAT in the fall of 2015 will see a newly designed test. (Sam UL/Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s that time of year: the high school class of 2015 is now receiving college decision letters.

At the same time, current high school freshmen and sophomores will face a revised version of the preliminary SAT or PSAT in the fall of 2015.

The PSAT is an important step before taking the actual SAT but the announced changes may change the way students go about preparing.

Lisa Micele, director of college counseling at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss changes test takers should expect to see and some tips for high school students preparing for the tests.

Lisa Micele’s PSAT/SAT Tips for High School Sophomores

  1. Go to the source. The College Board website is filled with great information including examples of the changes and sample questions.
  2. The new PSAT will launch in October 2015. You will then be a JUNIOR and (if you choose to participate) this exam will enter you into the National Merit ScholarshipCorporation program/competitions. For the 1.5 million students who will participate, remember that it is a PRACTICE test for the redesigned SAT to launch in March of 2016. (Approximately 8,000 students qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist — announced September of Senior Year.)
  3. You will have many choices. Will you focus solely on the ACT? Will you finish your testing by January 2016 and not worry about the redesigned SAT at all? Will you take the new SAT launching in March 2016 — with possible retakes senior year? Will you do a combination of these? Talk with people on your support team. Colleges are consistently reporting that they will take scores from any exams. Concordance charts are being developed by the College Board to assist colleges when comparing the current SAT to scores from the redesigned SAT exam. (Yes, it will all be fine!)
  4. Cover all of your bases. Even though the new SAT will have an “optional essay” there are many colleges & universities who will expect to see this score. Unless you have a final list of colleges in mind and have done your research to ask if you can truly skip the essay, sit for the essay! Better safe than sorry. (Sometimes “optional” is NOT optional.)
  5. Will you focus your college search on schools who do not require the SAT / ACT or de-emphasize standardized testing in their admissions process? Yes, over 850 of these colleges & universities do exist.
  6. While taking a rigorous High School curriculum is your best preparation, preparing for these tests is expected. Whether you use test prep books, online resources, attend a class, or use the free resources via Khan Academy (in partnership with College Board — to launch soon) your commitment to give your best effort is key. Those books filled with practice tests will not help you if they are sitting in the shrink-wrap until 2 days before the test. Map out a plan — put in the effort to study / take full-length practice tests — and simply do your best.
  7. DO NOT use national exams “for practice” as these scores will be a part of your permanent testing history. While some colleges & universities will allow you to pick and choose which scores to send, some will expect your full testing record to be disclosed. Yes, it is common for students to take a test twice. Three times max. Do you want to show a college that your life revolves around standardized testing? I don’t think so. You are SO much more than a set of numbers.
  8.  Keep it all in perspective. Testing is only one piece to a college admissions application — if required at all. You are not defined by your test score(s). Enjoy the journey.


  • Lisa Micele, director of college counseling at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois. She tweets @LisaMicele.

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