Is the PSAT Worth Taking?

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The Pre SAT is widely regarded as the first step into the world of college standardized testing. Many students take the exam as preparation for the SAT, but in recent years, the test’s importance has become questionable. 

The PSAT 

Caroline Johndrow is a sophomore at Leesville Road High School. She, and roughly 400 students from the sophomore class at LRHS recently took the PSAT administered by the school.  

Before her attempt at the PSAT, she took the time to study, utilizing websites and workbooks to brush up on each subject. Still, she finds herself unsure of what will happen during the exam.

“I took a practice test, so I kind of know about the way it’s timed and how to manage my time for it but I don’t know how the room is going to be set up and what it’s going to be like,” she said. 

Regardless of how she fares on her first test, Johndrow plans to retake the exam at least once as a junior. 

National Scholar Award

Taking the PSAT-NMSQT, the most common form of the SAT, as a junior allows students to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. This scholarship includes $2500 towards each finalist and a potential for corporate and college scholarships. 

While the reward seems worthy of pursuing, over 4.5 million take the exam and only 7,500 people, fifth of a percent of those who take the test qualify as Scholars. These participants must score well on the PSAT during fall of their junior year and then go on to make high scores on their SAT as well. Roughly 50,000 students who do not qualify as a Scholar claim ranks such as commended student, semifinalist and finalist. 

The SAT and College Applications

With so few people qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship, the vast majority of people take the PSAT and SAT to bolster their college applications. 

Malkaan Mehdi is a senior at LRHS. She took the PSAT in the eighth and ninth grades followed by the SAT multiple times throughout high school. As she began applying to universities, Medhi found the majority of her choice universities no longer required the exams. 

“I am applying to four schools and..one school required them, three were optional. One of the things I realized is that you don’t really have to take it [the SAT] and if you are taking it you don’t have to take both of them [SAT and ACT],” she said 

This trend of switching to test optional came to be during the Covid 19 pandemic when many schools waived their testing requirements at least through the 2022-23 school year. Few schools have released information about bringing back the test, raising the question as to whether testing will come back completely. 

The schools which have brought their testing back are mainly elite universities, though even the  Ivy Leagues have yet to bring back standardized testing. 

As for UNC System schools, testing requirements still remain optional with none of the schools making advances to reinstate the exam until after the 2022-2023 school year. 

“I realized that you don’t really have to take it [standardized tests] and if you are taking it you don’t have to take both [ the SAT and the ACT]  MIT requires one of them, the ones that don’t were Duke, NC State, and UNC,” said Mehdi.

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