PSAT: Practice Makes Perfect


Written by Oscar Scholin, Journalist

                   Despite the many groans of the sophomores and juniors as they walked towards their testing rooms last week to take the dreaded PSAT, taking this standardized test actually has several advantages.
Firstly, if you are taking the test as a junior, then you can potentially qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. This prestigious award is only given to the top scorers on the PSAT (those students who score in the 99.9th percentile of test takers in the state), encouraging everyone to at least try their best. For this year, scoring that high means only missing one or two questions on the entire test. Not only does achieving the National Merit Scholarship look very good on a college resumé, but it also brings an immense amount of savings on college tuition, depending on which college to which you apply. For sophomores, taking this test gives you an additional practice test before junior year’s PSAT.

                  Additionally, if you just score well on the test (meaning you miss more than one or two but fewer than 90% of students), colleges become very interested in you, leading to potential acceptances and scholarships, even without getting National Merit status! Thus, trying your best on the PSAT can greatly benefit you in your search for colleges and their search for you.
                 Most importantly, though, taking this test enables you to practice your skills for when you take the actual test (typically in your junior and fall of senior year). For both standardized tests available, the SAT and the ACT, timing and practice can mean the difference in scores of hundreds of points; this gain potentially means the difference between being accepted by a college or being deferred or not being accepted. Since the PSAT is offered for free, students can practice their skills in preparation for the SAT or ACT without paying the $40+ to take the actual test and ‘practice,’ or without paying for a tutor or prep class (although, that can also help). Additionally, students can learn how they react to the constant time pressure and multiple choice type questions in order to strategize with those constraints during the actual SAT. Also, as the test is a practice test and not the actual SAT, there will not be the same pressures in terms of needing to score well as there is on the SAT or ACT, enabling you to practice the material and understand the how the test works. In addition to practicing for the SAT, the PSAT can actually improve your skills as a writer by checking and furthering your understanding of the fundamentals of English rhetoric and the rules of grammar. For example, learning the correct placement for commas, the difference between ‘effects’ and ‘affects,’ ‘then’ and ‘than,’ how to use a colon, etc.
                   The PSAT is offered for FREE (thanks to our PGUSD)! This means you get all of the aforementioned benefits at no cost other than a morning of testing! Thus, every student should take the PSAT, if only to practice taking the SAT and ACT without any of the same stresses to do well as on the SAT. If practice makes perfect, then taking the PSAT will at least improve your score on the actual SAT because you will be familiar with the format, the timing, and the kinds of things they test you on every test. Happy testing!