Practice, practice, practice. That’s all this is; the PSAT is just practice. There is no need to stress; it is not going to determine my college fate. I repeated these words to myself time and time again as I anticipated the October 19th test date for the PSAT/NMSQT exam. Sure, a high score could qualify me as a National Merit Scholar, but what were the chance of that happening? My test scores may be high, but most likely would not be in the top 1%.
My peers probably spent hours upon hours studying for the PRACTICE SAT. I, on the other hand, didn’t really do much. I didn’t register for the tutoring classes like some of my friends – my family and I didn’t see the purpose since the test didn’t count toward college admission – nor did I buy any special PSAT prep books. I did purchase SAT prep books, however, because my logic was I might as well get the SAT books since I’ll have to take that anyway, and since the SAT is a slightly more difficult test, it is better to be over-prepared. Occasionally in the weeks leading up to October 19th I would crack open that SAT book and review a concept, or I would go on the Khan Academy SAT page and do some practice problems. The practice didn’t amount to much, but it suppressed my fears a little when it came to being under-prepared.
Last year, I received back my PSAT test booklet when I got my score report. This came in handy because the night before the PSAT this year, I pulled out the 2015 test and redid all those problems. With each question, I remembered more about my sophomore experience with the test. The bubble-filling reality that would be October 19th started to set in.
At 8:30 on the dot my homeroom teacher allowed us to begin the exam. The reading and writing sections were fair. I actually enjoyed the selections, which was surprising. For math, I found myself short on time for the non-calculator section. I was able to finish everything, but a few extra minutes would have been helpful. When it came to the calculator section, I really put my TI-nspire to use. I am lucky enough to have a calculator with the Computer Algebra System that can do almost all mathematical operations for me. Yes, I could solve systems of equations on my own, but I used my TI-nspire CAS to make sure I had the right answer.
After that last section was complete, I felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders. I did not release a sigh of relief when my test booklet was collected, however, because I started to worry I didn’t bubble in something properly. This was no surprise though, because that is my feeling after every test.
Overall, I thought the PSAT went better than sophomore year. The questions were easier to comprehend and the math concepts were not too advanced. I don’t think this is because I have more math under my belt either, but because I did the 2015 PSAT the night before and practiced. The College Board must just have realized the weak areas on last year’s exam and modified this year’s accordingly.
Only time will tell how I fared on the PSAT. I don’t even find out my National Merit status until next fall! However, I feel relieved that I got the “practice” over with and now I have to worry about the real thing that does count: the SAT.
By Heather Farrell’18, Junior Editor-in-Chief