teengirl-reading-book2All summer long, MathSP has been reminding students, parents and teachers about the newly redesigned version of the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) that will be administered starting in October 2015. We discussed the various changes in the test regarding content, scoring and test format and what it meant for your test prep. Last month, we did a deep dive into the Math Section where we discussed questions to be expected on the Math Test, what students need to know and how to best prepare to master this section of the PSAT. This month, it’s all about the Reading Section of the test. Part of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, this portion of the test focuses on the way you take in, think about and use information – No memorizing of facts or definitions to study. Let’s explore more of the PSAT Reading Section.


The redesigned PSAT includes 47 multiple-choice Reading questions that are based on passages students must read in order to correctly answer each question. The multiple-choice questions will have four possible answers for students to choose from. In some instances, passages are paired with other passages and informational graphics such as tables, graphs and charts may accompany some passages. However, no math is required for this section.

Reading Section Time Allotted Number of Questions Avg. Time/Question
Reading Test 1 hour 47 ~1 min 16 sec

Students are required to read passages, interpret informational graphics and use what they’ve read to answer questions. There will be questions that ask to locate specific information or point out an idea that was directly stated in the passage. In order to do this, students will need to understand what the author’s words imply and be able to read between the lines.

Question Structure

According to The College Board College Readiness website that outlines test components of SAT & PSAT, the Reading Test will always include the following:

  • One passage from a classic or contemporary work of U.S. or world literature.
  • One passage or a pair of passages from either a U.S. founding document or a text in the great global conversation they inspired. The U.S. Constitution or a speech by Nelson Mandela, for example.
  • A selection about economics, psychology, sociology or some other social science.
  • Two science passages (or one passage and one passage pair) that examine foundational concepts and developments in Earth science, biology, chemistry or physics.

What the Reading Test Measures

The Reading Section measures a range of skills – skills that you have acquired throughout years of schooling. These skills are Command of Evidence, Words in Context and Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science.

Command of Evidence

In these questions, students are asked to do a number of things such as:

  • Find evidence in a passage or pair of passages that best supports the answer to a previous question or serves as the basis for a reasonable conclusion.
  • Identify how authors use evidence to support their claims.
  • Find a relationship between an informational graphic and the passage it’s paired with

Words in Context

In these questions, you will find important, widely used words and phrases that you’ll use in college and the workplace long after you’ve taken the PSAT. The newly redesigned test will focus on your ability to:

  • Use context clues in a passage to figure out which meaning of a word or phrase is being used.
  • Decide how an author’s word choice shapes meaning, style and tone.

Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science

You will encounter passages that focus on the fields of history, social studies and science. Questions within this skill will require students to utilize reading skills most needed to succeed in these subjects. An example would be where students are required to read about an experiment and then answer questions that ask to:

  • Examine hypotheses.
  • Interpret data.
  • Consider implications.

Answers to these questions are based only on the content stated in or implied by the passage. To get a better handle on the Reading Section of the PSAT or try a practice run, view sample questions from the College Board College Readiness website to gain an understanding of the type of questions that will be found on the Reading Section of the PSAT.


As a reminder, the redesigned PSAT adapted rights-scoring only, which means students receive a point for the correct answer but no deductions for wrong answers. Secondly, the PSAT will report a total score, section scores, test scores, cross-test scores and subscores. Read more about the breakdown of each PSAT score here to help clarify any questions or concerns you may have regarding the scoring. MathSP’s expert Test Prep Coaches can help you navigate the Reading Section on the redesigned PSAT to help you achieve your target score. Learn more about our PSAT Bridge program and how it can provide the confidence needed to achieve your highest score.