By Michael Pepin
The PSAT was designed as a preparation for the SAT, explaining its name as “Pre-Standardized-Aptitude-test.” However is the four hour test really necessary for students? How does the PSAT compare to the SAT itself, and do students who have taken the test consider it to be helpful or a waste of time?
The PSAT is actually a retired SAT that is being reused to help students get a feel for taking the test. “The PSAT is to help students familiarize themselves with the SAT. Sophomores can use it for career exploration, and juniors can use it not only to prepare for the SAT but also to qualify for National Merit Scholarships,” said counselor Mark Clark.
Many students find the test unenjoyable, but necessary. “My opinion is that it is a good thing, because it will prepare us for the real thing even though it’s not very fun,” said junior Alexis Martin.
Though the SAT and PSAT do not differ much, the most significant difference is that the PSAT has no on-demand essay. Instead, they utilize multiple choice questions over sentence structure. “The PSAT does not have the essay portion, so I think that it is the only flaw because the essay is a good part of the SAT. The questions about sentence structure and writing do not compare to writing an actual essay,” said English teacher Wallace Austin.
The PSAT however, has another benefit to the students to help prepare for the important test. “Because of the high stakes for the SAT, students need to prepare and receive experience with standardized test taking. In addition, with the PSAT when you get your results back from the PSAT it shows you your skills and weaknesses so that you can know what to study and be better prepared,” said Austin. When the results of the PSAT return, you are able to look and see which areas you need improvement in and which areas you are assured of passing.
A lot of the stress that occurs during the test arises not from the questions themselves, but the pressure to do well. “It adds the experience of taking a standardized test and performing under a time limit. The PSAT is to practice and prepare for the SAT,” said senior Rick Ellis, who had taken the PSAT last year and went on to take the SAT in the spring. The strain of taking a long grueling test under a time limit is one of the harder parts of the test, said Ellis.
The differences in setting between the SAT and the PSAT prevent an actual reproduction of the situation. “It is different with the PSAT because you are already at school and ready, but with the SAT you have to get yourself up and prepare for the test, which takes place inside of an unfamiliar school,” said senior Austin Adams.
The PSAT does not have the essay portion, so I think that it is the only flaw because the essay is a good part of the SAT. The questions about sentence structure and writing do not compare to writing an actual essay.
While the PSAT’s goal is to prepare students to eventually take the SAT, it is important for everyone. “Why not give yourself options? Colleges require SAT scores, and you should take the PSAT in case you later change your mind and find a college you want and need a high SAT score to get into,” said Austin.