Taking PSAT, students aim for National Merit


photo by Josh Wartel

Every October, juniors prepare for one of the most important standardized tests of the year: the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). The PSAT is a test administered by the College Board that offers a $2500 scholarship to approximately 7600 juniors in the United States who are selected. Although the PSAT isn’t considered for college admissions, the score offers a barometer of a student’s SAT score to help them prepare for future SAT testings. The PSAT is shorter since it doesn’t include the writing portion, but the scores are similar. The PSAT scores range from 20 to 80, while SAT scores range between 200 to 800.

“Even though there aren’t as many sections, [the PSAT] still helped me work on my endurance and my timing for each section,” senior Karen Soohoo said. “Also the types of questions on the PSAT, though they might have been slightly easier, were a pretty accurate reflection of the questions on the SAT so it helped me get used to the specific types of questions asked on the SAT.”

Soohoo along with five other seniors qualified for the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Semifinal. Soohoo, Emily Clanton, Anya Michaelsen, Daniel Song and Michael Sparrow will advance to the next stage of the process in which 15,000 students will be selected for the finalist group. In this stage, semi-finalists’ academic performance, two test scores, recommendation, extracurricular activities and essay will be reviewed.

“I honest never expected myself to [qualify for the NMSQT],” Soohoo said. “I’m really happy I did qualify though because it is a great honor to be part of the top scorers in the nation, and I have a chance to get some scholarships for college.”

The benefits of the National Merit Scholarship include scholarships and a boost to resumes and applications. Because of this, some students have been preparing for the test since summer. The College Board and senior Anya Michaelsen recommend knowing the test format to save time.

“Take practice tests,” Michaelsen said, “but then the most important aspect of doing so is to review the questions you missed. This way you can find the types of problems, be it in critical reading or mathematics, that you struggle with and improve your understanding.”

This year’s PSAT will take place next Wednesday, Oct. 15 in student’s second period classes.