On Wednesday, October 14th, Friends Academy sophomores and juniors took the PSAT, a College Board-affiliated test taken by high school students across the country. The test ran from approximately 8:30 to 11:30 in the morning, with all sophomore and junior classes during this period cancelled in light of the test. Students were given a full-length practice PSAT test to take home, as well as a booklet containing general test information and skills practice in the weeks prior to the test by their advisors.
The PSAT, which stands for the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, has two main functions: to prepare juniors for the actual SAT and also to provide potential awards and distinctions to juniors who score high enough to earn a National Merit Scholarship- either Finalist or Semifinalist. Only juniors are eligible for the National Merit Scholarship program, but sophomores can take the test if their school allows them to do so. At Friends, all sophomores are required to take the test, a policy that has been implemented with idea that more practice will be beneficial and can be an asset in the planning of students’ future test-taking. Because the PSAT is also supposed to predict approximate SAT scores, many student advisors encourage students to take PSAT scores into consideration when choosing whether to take the SAT or the ACT their junior year.
PSAT scores do not have any direct bearing upon college applications. In other words, PSAT scores are not directly given to colleges. However, earning a Semifinalist or Finalist badge is a great distinction, and can be added to one’s college application or resume as an impressive supplement. Additionally, semifinalists and finalists have the opportunity to obtain a variety of scholarships from the organization and other college programs.
In conjunction with the release of the new SAT this coming March, the College Board also redesigned the October 2015 PSAT so that it would accurately reflect the format of the new SAT. Since this was the first year that such changes had been implemented, there was not much of a history to draw upon as to the redesigned test for student preparation. Many students have expressed apprehensions about having less practice material available and thus having lower scores. However, it is important to remember that the PSAT is graded on a national curve- that is, it will be scored according to how well all students across the nation did. As junior Jacqueline Walzer stated: “I think it’s important for students not to worry too much about getting low PSAT scores. Since everyone has less material to prepare from and the test is graded based on everyone’s scores, rather than set numbers, the only thing that matters is how well you do relative to others in the country.”