Yes/No: Should the PSAT be optional?

Having PSAT’s is becoming a concern on how important it is

Eliza Noblejas and Valerie Torres

Yes.

Students complete their early PSAT’s in their high school years. During this time they must sit in their desks and complete the test on paper. (Isaiah Nafarrete )

As students enter Bonita Vista High (BVH)’s campus, they go to their first-period class of the day. As students await for the next bell to ring during their first-period classes, it signifies them to go to their designated classrooms for the schedule of Future Vision Day—a day that sets aside the regular class schedule to focus on testing or spark interest in students’ future—which is an annual schedule done at BVH. 

Future Vision Day occurs every school year, where tenth and eleventh graders at BVH take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). which supposedly prepares students for the real Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more colleges and universities have placed SAT and American College Testing (ACT) scores as optional. Consequently, if the SAT is not optional then the PSAT should follow in the same manner, as the test neglects its intended purpose.

In order to understand why, there are many key points about the PSAT that need to be known.  College Board, an American non-profit organization explains, “The PSAT/NMSQT [National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test] takes 2 hours and 45 minutes and consists of 3 tests: (1) the Reading Test, (2) the Writing and Language Test, and (3) the Math Test. Most of the questions are multiple choice, though some math questions ask you to write in the answer rather than select it.” 

While the PSAT may seem like its purpose is to help students, it misses many important details, that need to be considered. The first factor is the actual preparation. The PSAT does not actually reflect the SAT as a whole. With major differences such as the time frame of the test, what sections it includes and whether the PSAT is up to date, these misconceptions aren’t addressed, making it confusing to students who take the SAT.

A study conducted in New York by HuffPost explains the major reason why the PSAT has flaws stating, “When the SAT was changed in 2005 to include a writing section, the PSAT was not fully revised to reflect the change.” This is important to note, as students won’t adapt quickly enough to the format of the SAT and the test isn’t as preparatory as suggested.

As a whole, the PSAT is not an accurate representation of what a student can achieve.”

— Eliza Noblejas

The second factor is how colleges ultimately perceive the PSAT. Though students may want to send in their SAT scores for credibility, Christine Sarikas from PrepScholar explains how, “Hundreds of colleges have dropped their SAT and ACT test requirements for the 2020/2021, 2021/2022, and 2022/2023 college admissions cycles.” Some of these colleges also include prestigious Ivy League colleges as well. 

This is very important for students to know because it shows that colleges don’t prioritize SAT and ACT scores as much anymore. This is because colleges want to see a diverse range of curricula and not just high similar test scores. Though it wouldn’t hurt to turn in SAT scores, colleges won’t base a student’s admission on those scores. 

This leads to the third factor: the work students put into the PSAT. The Princeton Review explains, “Each year, over 3.5 million high school students take the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, also known as the PSAT.” This means that for the amount of those students that do take the PSAT, they will know beforehand if they’ll want to prepare for the test and actually do well on it. Or contrast to that, students won’t have the determination for studying, in the first place, as the PSAT is known to just be “preliminary”.

As a whole, the PSAT is not an accurate representation of what a student can achieve. It’s a practice test that students need to keep in mind and it doesn’t reflect the factors it chooses to advocate for. Similar to the SAT, the PSAT should be optional for students to take because it is ultimately more beneficial for students to choose in the long run.

 

No.

Some students choose to avoid PSAT when the day comes. They do not see the importance in it, leading to missing or ditching that class period. (Isaiah Nafarrete )

Sophomores and juniors sharpen their number two pencils, preparing to take the four hour Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), which evaluates how they should change the way they prepare for the SAT their senior year. The SAT is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States. For the past two years, Bonita Vista High (BVH) has taken one day of the year, Future Baron Day, as the one day where students take the PSAT. 

Most colleges and universities no longer require the SAT or America College Testing (ACT) scores for admission. The only schools that use these scores to apply are prestigious Ivy League universities, such as Georgetown and Yale. The SAT consists of questions about the subjects English and mathematics while the ACT covers four academic subjects; English, mathematics, science and reading. 

University of the People states that although these tests are not required for most universities, the SAT and ACT can still be reviewed if submitted along with the application. Students argue the PSAT is a waste of time and believe it will have no effect on their future plans, considering whether or not they choose to attend college. Although this statement may be applicable to some, the PSAT can still evaluate your knowledge and what skills to prioritize.

The rigorous four hour process to complete the test with only a few minute long breaks, depending on the proctor, seems overwhelming, but it is important for students to complete each section. Many tend to rush the remainder of their section or feel burnt out midway through the test. It is suggested for students to take their time on the test to give an accurate level of their capability and what they need to prioritize preparing for on the real SAT.

Petersons is a college prep website which advises students how to prepare for their future and why taking the PSAT can be beneficial. According to the website, the PSAT can provide many advantages that students may not acknowledge before taking the test. For example, taking the PSAT allows students to get  more acquainted with the test format. The organization College Board that Advanced Placement (AP) exams also produces the SAT and PSAT, meaning they share similar setups.

The website informs students that participate in AP courses will recognize a similar format between the SAT and AP exam. It is believed those who have strategized in preparing themselves for the PSAT and receive a good score will not have a difficult time testing in their AP exams and vice versa.

The debate of whether taking the PSAT for sophomores and juniors differentiates depending on those who decide what future they want to pursue.”

— Valerie Torres

One of the benefits of taking the PSAT and scoring well is obtaining a merit scholarship which is advertised on the front of students’ PSAT booklet. According to the College Board official website, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for the PSAT, the program suggests students take the test into account for the opportunity of scholarships. Those who meet the requirements to enter the scholarship program have the chance to earn $500-$40,000 in scholarships. Other programs also use the PSAT to search for students who can also apply to their program.

Although close to 2,000 U.S. universities and colleges no longer or have not required SAT scores to be submitted, it can boost students’ chances to be accepted into a selective college. According to Best Colleges, it is strongly suggested to submit SAT scores depending on the students’ scenario. For example, submitting their SAT scores can aid a student’s chance in getting accepted into competitive universities when the rest of their college application does not seem sufficient enough. 

The debate of whether taking the PSAT for sophomores and juniors differentiates depending on those who decide what future they want to pursue. It is a useful tool whether students decide to go to college or not. Regardless, the PSAT  helps prepare students for the rest of their academic career and comes along with many benefits.