The PSAT: Was it Worth it?

By Arielle Goldman

The Preliminary SATs, or PSATs, are well-known for two major reasons: preparing for the SATs and having a chance to win a National Merit Scholarship, resulting in scholarship money towards college. At Byram Hills, students have the opportunity to take this exam in October of their junior year. With regards to college admissions, the PSAT can only help students. A university may like the fact that the student has taken the exam, but by no means is it required. Most colleges, however, require some sort of standardized testing. Typically, colleges will accept scores from either the SAT or the ACT, and a large emphasis is placed on standardized test scores in the admissions process. The PSAT is known to be an excellent way to practice for these exams, and many feel that there is no good reason not to take the exam. If a student does exceptionally well in comparison to other students nationwide, they could obtain large amounts of scholarship money because of the exam’s status as a National Merit-Qualifying Test.

There are four major sections of the PSAT: evidence-based reading, writing and language, math without a calculator, and math with a calculator – just like the real SAT. However, instead of being out of 1600 points, the PSAT is out of 1500 points.

At Byram Hills, the PSAT was taken on October 10th. While freshmen, sophomores, and seniors had a three-hour delay, juniors sat for the exam. However, not all students opted to take the exam. Many juniors decided not to take the exam for several reasons. Some came to the conclusion that they weren’t ready, and if they didn’t think they would be considered for the scholarship, they thought that there was no point in taking it. Others were already spending hours weekly preparing for the SAT or ACT and the thought of taking another exam was unappealing. On the other hand, most of the grade decided to be a part of the testing process, and many students were glad they did. Sam Goldman, a junior who recently took the exam, thinks that “the PSAT was good practice for those preparing for the SAT.”

To be qualified for a National Merit Scholarship, students have to do well in comparison to others taking the test in their district. Every year, because the students taking the exam are different than previous years, there is no way to know what the top score will be. The National Merit Scholarship is very particular and less than the top 1% of high school students advance to become semifinalists.

The PSAT is a test to evaluate specific academic skills and give students the opportunity to win scholarship money for all of their hard work throughout their academic careers. Because of these factors, students can only benefit from taking the exam. Students at Byram Hills are happy to have gotten the PSAT over with and are ready for the rest of their junior year!