What’s Covered on the PSAT Reading and Writing Test?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What's On the PSAT ReadingWritingLearn What to Study In Order to Feel Prepared for the PSAT

For many students, the PSAT is one of the first major standardized tests of their high school career. The assessment is designed to help students gauge what they’ve learned thus far and their readiness to succeed in college. In addition to taking challenging academic courses and staying on top of assignments, it can be beneficial to learn more about the PSAT exam so you know what to expect and how to study.

If you’re preparing for the PSAT and looking for in-depth information on the Reading & Writing Test, keep reading to get all the details so that you can feel confident on test day!

Reading Test: The Basics
The questions on the reading test are multiple choice and based on passages. Some passages are paired with others and there are also informational graphics such as tables, graphs and charts. No math is required, and no prior topic-specific knowledge is tested. The test itself asks students to locate information from the reading as well as questioning what the author’s words imply.

The CollegeBoard also supplies more specific information for what students can expect. The test includes: one passage from a classic or contemporary work of literature, one passage or pair of passages from a historic document, a social science selection, and one or more passages on science topic such as a biology or chemistry.

What the Reading Test Measures
Command of Evidence: The PSAT asks student to focus on how authors use evidence in their writing to cover different topics. Students must identify the section of a text that provides the best textual support to answer the question. Additionally, students may be asked how the focus of writing could be improved and the role that the evidence plays in the author’s argument. The College Board provides more information on Command of Evidence on their website.

For more information regarding this section, click here.

Words in Context: This subsection asks about the meaning and use of words and phrases. Students will be asked to use context clues to identify the definitions, analyze the rhetorical impact and choose which word/phrase is best represented in each writing excerpt. Students will explore how word choice shapes the meaning, tone, and style of the excerpt

For additional information regarding this section, click here.

Analysis in History/Social Students and in Science: No additional information regarding history or science will be needed for this section. Instead, questions are solely based on the content stated or implied in the section. Students may be asked to examine hypotheses, interpret data or consider the implications of the text.

For sample PSAT reading questions, click here.

Writing & Language Test: The Basics
Within this section, all questions are multiple choice and are based on passages. Much like the Reading Test, passages can be accompanied by graphics. No prior knowledge is tested, but students will be asked to use practical skills they have covered in their own schoolwork such as reading passages, finding errors, and fixing the identified mistakes. The Writing & Language Test also covers topics in the Command of Evidence, Words in Context and Analysis in History/Sciences. However, there are two additional subcategories for this section: Express of Ideas and the Standard English Conventions.

What the Writing Test Measures:
Expression of Ideas: This section focuses on the ‘art of writing’ by addressing the development, organization and effective use of language in the passage. Students will be asked to make structural changes to improve how the passage is organized.

For additional information regarding this section, click here.

Standard English Conventions: Students’ knowledge of sentence structure, punctuation, and grammar will be measured throughout this section. It is important for test-takers to recognize and correct incomplete sentences and keep an eye out for conventional errors.

For sample PSAT Writing & Language questions, click here.

The more students learn about an exam before test day, the more prepared they will feel. If you are currently studying for an exam and looking for expert help, our team of tutors can guide you throughout the process.



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