PSAT – Practice for Practice?

Arnav Srivastava ‘19
EE Opinions Editor

As the fall trends and styles roll into season, October also brings along the College Board’s renowned PSAT. Being a required assessment taken by freshmen, sophomores, and juniors at Trumbull High School, the PSAT has some mixed perceptions by students.As the fall trends and styles roll into season, October also brings along the College Board’s renowned PSAT. Being a required assessment taken by freshmen, sophomores, and juniors at Trumbull High School, the PSAT has some mixed perceptions by students.

But first, just what is the PSAT? Officially, College Board’s assessment is referred to as the PSAT/NMSQT, abbreviated for the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Although the PSAT now sounds significantly more intimidating, it still fits the flawed acronym that most students hold of the PSAT: the Practice SAT.

As reported by the exam’s creator, College Board, the PSAT has the same structure as the SAT, with reading, writing and language, and math sections with similar time limits to the SAT, as well as similar skills and topics being assessed between the PSAT and SAT. Concurrently, the PSAT is reported to have less difficult questions, making it slightly easier than the actual SAT.

So, if this is just a practice SAT, does it simply not count? Unfortunately, this is the common fallacy held by a majority of students, which leads to many of them not preparing or really caring for their performance on the PSAT.

In truth, the PSAT is a lot more than just practice. While it does give a valuable taste of the SAT, the exam which a projected 80.44% of Connecticut students will use for their college applications according to college search company College Raptor, it also opens up doors of opportunities if performed well on. Although opportunities of getting SAT practice should not be wasted, the PSAT’s role as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test adds impact to the exam: if a student receives or surpasses the NMSQT’s cutoff score for Connecticut (roughly a 1450 PSAT score) in their junior year of high school, then the student qualifies as a National Merit Scholar.

Such an achievement can positively highlight one’s college application, as well as create the opportunity for numerous scholarships that significantly aid the burden of college costs. As a result, effort on the PSAT can really pay off in the long run for the SAT.

In all, the PSAT is a lot more than mere practice. While it does provide preparation for the SAT, it also offers students a chance to ease their college application process. Although this may not be a priority of freshmen and sophomores, performance on the PSAT deserves more emphasis and support, as students will ultimately be helping themselves with early SAT practice as well as a higher chance of reaping PSAT benefits junior year of high school.

Students can effectively plan for future success on this exam by utilizing free resources for the PSAT offered by Khan Academy, familiarizing oneself with the PSAT practice tests on the College Board website, taking a PSAT course (Kaplan is currently offering a free PSAT course!), reading preparatory books on the PSAT or SAT, or taking an SAT course (which will over prepare one for the PSAT). Mark the date and prepare! Wednesday, October 11th, is the primary PSAT testing date. Good luck to all students taking the PSAT.

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