The PSATs: More Than Just A Practice Test


If you are a sophomore or junior at IHA right now, or at almost any other high school in the US, you are most likely preparing for the PSATs, otherwise known as NMSQTs. Many  believe that it is unnecessary to study for the PSAT because it is merely a practice test for the SAT, which will be sent to the colleges you apply to in the future. While this may be true, it is highly recommended that students take the test seriously in order to best prepare for future college placement exams.

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The PSATs/NMSQTs are a preliminary SAT exam. Photo courtesy of College Board

First and foremost, the PSAT stands for the the Preliminary SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and is also known as the NMSQTs, or the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is a standardized test administered to sophomores and juniors in October each year and is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. As a sophomore, you are administered the test to gain more experience for taking it as a junior. For IHA students specifically, it acts as a way to re-adjust to standardized tests, which many haven’t taken since the HSPT. For sophomores and juniors alike, the PSATs also gauge your understanding of basic knowledge in English and Mathematics and help predict your success on later standardized tests.

When you’re a junior, the PSATs are more meaningful. Students can qualify for the National Scholarship Program, receiving recognition and scholarships for their scores. This is a big deal because, in the ultra-competitive universe for college acceptance, getting acknowledged for your academic abilities can make you stand out, and it is an amazing opportunity to reduce the ever-so-high cost of a college education.

Although this may seem stressful, there are numerous ways you can prepare for the PSATs. IHA provides an “PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide,” administered by the College Board, to the sophomores and juniors at the beginning of the year, which provides information about the National Merit Scholarships and includes a practice test, simulating what the PSAT is like. There are also countless PSAT prep books that you can purchase from any bookstore. Specifically, the “CliffNotes PSAT/NMSQT Cram Plan” book gives guidelines on how to properly get ready for the PSATs with 2 months left, all the way down to 2 days before the test (though I don’t recommend waiting that long).

Sophomore Alexandra Betsy says that, “Although the PSATs seem daunting, I believe it acts as a great benchmark for us and the teachers to see our strengths and weaknesses in preparing for the actual SAT.”

Moreover, if you are an athlete and are looking to be recruited and have a sports recruiting profile, then you may need to upload your PSAT scores. This, along with your grades, will give the interested colleges a snapshot of your academic abilities for the decision process. However, colleges recognize that students further their knowledge beyond the PSAT and take many other factors into consideration.

Overall, the PSAT is an important step in the college process and serves as a preface to the SATs. They are certainly not something to neglect, but they are also completely manageable even with busy high school schedules. With the right preparation and determination, you can make it through the PSATs and excel!

Written By; Katherine Conway’ 21; Social Media Chair

Categories: Opinions