Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Thursday, October 19, 2006

PSAT- Pretty Savvy Aptitude Test

So I took the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) for the first time yesterday. I gotta say... it's a well-made standardized test. I'm pleased with the process of taking it, the structure of the problems, and the time limits. First, a quick overview:


The PSAT is comprised of 5 sections: 2 Reading, 2 Math, and 1 Writing. The time limit for each section is 25 minutes for each of the reading and math sections, and 30 minutes for the writing section. A 5-minute break occurs between sections 2 and 3. A 1-minute break occurs between 4 and 5. Correct answers are 1 point, blank answers and incorrect math grid (number answer; not multiple choice) are 0 points, and incorrect multiple choice answers are -1/4 points.


This test is designed to be rough, as opposed to the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests we've taken every year that are much easier and limitless in time. It's rather refreshing, really. The PSAT pushes you to think on your feet and answer every question to the best of your ability; it's exciting. The time limits almost made it feel like a game (albeit a mentally draining one), and going into a test knowing that the point isn't to answer everything right, but to perform as well as possible, is great. The test itself is easy to navigate, and the chance of error in filling out any of the forms is minized due to clear explanations and a walkthrough during the personal information portion at the beginning.

The time limits seem to be very well set. Though I managed to answer every problem, I only finished with (a little) time to spare on 2/5 sections, and I had to rush to finish the other 3. Most people in my classroom ended up leaving several problems blank, so the time limit definitely separates the quick/focused from the slow/unfocused. Technical values aside, the limited time makes the test much more exciting.

The scoring system is definitely a plus. It encourages students to attempt problems they are only somewhat confident about; mathematically, it makes sense to attempt every problem. With a 1/5 chance, you would lose 1 point with four misses and gain 1 point with 1 hit. Normally you'll have some sort of idea of what might be the answer and what isn't the answer, increasing your chances beyond a 1:1 point ratio.

Now, a breakdown of the sections, with a mixture of my opinions and technical information. My skills in reading, writing, and math are similar, so my opinions shouldn't be too biased:


Reading: The reading section is the most difficult of the three. Consisting of two sections, 24 questions each, it also contains the most total questions. Each section begins with a sentence completion portion, which has sentences with 1-2 missing words. The answers cover the possible missing word(s). These sections have graduating difficulty, so the context clues are obvious and the words less obscure at the beginning. By the last 1-2 problems, I usually didn't understand 2-3 of the words offered as answers.

Other portions of the reading test involve passages, ranging from short excerpts (1/5 page) to long ones (1/2 page). Some passages come in pairs, followed by questions concerning passage #1, passage #2, and both. This sub-portion of the test is by far the most difficult; some questions have very similar answers, and it's hard to discern which is a better fit. Others are just difficult to understand, especially considering the constant time pressure; the reading section is the most difficult section to finish in time. Also, the second reading portion seemed more difficult than the first.

Math: The math part consists of 38 problems: 28 multiple choice and 10 math grid (numerical answer). The first section consists of 20 multiple choice and the second contains 8 multiple choice and 10 math grid problems. Both math sections have graduating difficulty; the first half of the problems are relatively simple, but there are some confusing problems later on. The second math portion, like the reading one, seemed more difficult than the first one.

Writing: The last portion, writing, is 39 questions long. There are three sub-sections in the writing part which occur in this order: sentence rewriting, error identification, and paragraph rewriting. The first section, sentence rewriting, contains sentences with an underlined portion. Underneath, there are five replacement fragments: answer A is always the exact same fragment, while B-E are rewrites. Choosing the correct rewrite wasn't too difficult in most cases; the answer tends to be obvious, provided the testtaker's writing is grammatically sound. A few problems, however, have very similar answer choices that can make discernment difficult.

Error identification, the second writing sub-section, is the easiest part of the entire PSAT. The reason behind this is that one isn't required to rework the sentence; the objective is to merely recognize the mistake. Each problem offers a sentence with four underlined parts labeled A, B, C, and D, with the fifth answer being E, "No Error". Any of the four underlined fragments may contain a grammatical error (no spelling), or no errors may exist. Mistakes most commonly occur in verbs, followed by pronouns. Most of these are simple and can be answered quickly, though a few of the problems can contain rather nit-picky errors ("you and me" vs. "you and I", "any" vs. "any other") that can cause problems for the testtaker.

The final sub-section of the entire test, paragraph rewriting, contains a "rough draft" of an essay with each sentence numbered. The questions pertain to rewriting, rearranging, and adding/deleting sentences from the paragraph. This section is probably the most difficult part of the writing portion of the test, though still easier than any part of the math or reading sections. As opposed to the reading and math sections, very few people had trouble completing every problem in the writing section.


Overall, I'd say the PSAT is an excellent standardized test. However, there are a few possible changes that might be worth considering:

  • No calculators: Cuts off reliance on technology and tests mental math. This may be unnecessary, considering the nature of our modern world
  • A 3-minute break instead of a 1-minute break between sections 4 and 5, in case someone is anxious to relieve themselves
  • Implementation of alternating letter choices (i.e. ABCDE for #1, FGHJK for #2) to lessen chance of error when filling out answers

The fact that I only addressed minor details in my ideas for revising the test is a testament to the PSAT's savviness, in reference back to the title. The PSAT is, without question, a consistent and well-designed test.


That concludes my loose analysis of the PSAT; I'm happy that the American educational system has done something very right in this case. Now, if they could just cut the number of chances to take the SAT down to 3...



Blogger Rock said...

LAEvanesce, just wanted to drop by and personally thank you for nominating me for TheBestestBlog of the Day. Plus, for the nice things you said about my blog. I see you have revealed a bit more of yourself on your site. It's interesting stuff.

I am especially honored considering you describe yourself as mostly liberal, which is great. I hope you are a true liberal, which is basically what I am. I'm only conservative compared to the left of today. Compared to John F. Kennedy, I'm more like him than those on the left today. No matter. Whatever you believe, just do it with passion and honor, then you are contributing to the world.

I hope all is well with you, and keep writing your poetry. There's nothing better than the arts, for some reason, and I've always loved poems. It seems to me to be a very high and sophisticated human endeavor. Take care.

Truth—The No Spin Politically Incorrect Zone

11:18 PM  
Blogger AnoNick said...

Sounds like a very organised, well-made test. Hope you did well, and get a good result.

In India, we dont have multiple choice tests for main exams, we have then as entrance tests to various fields... I've not taken any professional one, so I dont know how good they are. I like multiple-choice instead of straight answer...

What kind of questions are there in the math part? Maybe you could find a link to a sample paper...

Nice post, once again. :-)

3:13 AM  
Blogger LAEvanesce said...

Thanks for the comments~


Rock: You're welcome; you deserve it, you've put a lot of effort into your blog and it's very well-developed. And yes, I'm becoming slightly more personal (though not too much) as time passes. I suppose I'm getting comfortable ^^

My liberal stance reflects the fact that I'm idealistic, which relates to my poetic status in a cliche, but true, sense. I'm glad you like the arts; art is the most profound way in which we share a perception of the world. Though almost all other fields serve a more practical, direct purpose, art approaches emotion in a way no other field is capable of, hence why the idea of AI producing literature or effective visuals is an impossibility.

Seems I got a bit off-track there; take care~


Anonick: Thanks for the good wishes ^^ Really, it doesn't count this year, but I'm all for beating everyone else anyway =p This test is pretty much a preliminary college entrance exam; I'm glad it's mostly multiple choice (I share your preference in answer types).

Upon your request, here's a link to some sample PSAT math problems ^^

You should also check out other areas of the test; they're all available on the sidebar ^^


5:00 PM  
Blogger Jessica Schneider said...

O crap, I did take this test once, but I'm happy to say I don't remember it at all. But at least there was some pleasure in knowing that, being a pre-test, it didn't count for much and supposedly it's more difficult than the real test that "counts".


7:19 PM  
Blogger SempreArioso said...

*sigh* I'm disappointed that I didn't get to take it . . . . Ah well! There's always next year! (But, there's no way to tell whether I'll be more intelligent as a sophomore.) =^ ^=

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last minute cramming, a few more vocabulary words to define,
Brushing up on math skills and now its time.
The test is in front of me, my pencil at hand.
The directions are given and the chatter expands.
I try to concentrate and block out the sound,
But the words begin to swirl around and around.
I begin to cry, I want to try my best.
This environment, however is not for a test.
My thoughts wonder of the page.
And my body begins to fill with rage.
This is my chance, my time to shine.
But those voices are stealing what is rightfully mine.
They don’t want to be here, you shouldn't make them stay.
Why can't they just all go away.
Franklin's finest what an ironic phrase to state.
To bad they couldn’t concentrate.
The gesture was thoughtful and most defiantly pure
But the execution, I'm not quite sure.
Next time please think before you do,
The ones who need this test depend on you.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Jelly said...

I was looking for some information on the PSAT exam (knowledge always relieves some portion of stress) and I found your blog. I must say I think I am more ready to take the test after reading your write up! ^_^ Thanks for the info, best of luck (I'm betting you did much better than I will :D)!

~Nervous Nerd

4:11 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Jelly: I'm glad the writeup helped- best of luck to you ^^ I'm happy to say that I won't be taking any more standardized tests for awhile (with this and the SAT out of the way). Well, actually, I guess there are always AP Exams...

5:12 PM  
Blogger David said...


I like this post very much. It help me to solve some my work under my director’s requirements.

Apart from that, below article also is the same meaning

Aptitude test sample

Tks again and nice keep posting

1:25 AM  

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