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Guest Opinion: The purpose of taking the PSAT

Counselor Melisa Perex responds to Caleb Hawkin's article on the pointlessness of taking the PSAT

By Melisa Perez | Guest Opinion

October 25, 2012

After reading Caleb Hawkin’s article, I felt as his guidance counselor it was my responsibility to shed a little light on the purpose and meaning of taking the PSAT.

Now with respect to his witty and funny article (I must admit, I laughed out loud), it didn’t explain what exactly the PSAT is and why all students should be encouraged to take it.

So let’s start with the basics. The PSAT stands for “Preliminary SAT.” (What does the SAT stand for? Nothing, it’s a brand name, but years ago it used to be Scholastic Aptitude Test.)

As the College Board website states, “The PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a program cosponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It’s a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT®. It also gives you a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programs and gain access to college and career planning tools.”

For all students who are applying to four-year universities, one of the major requirements for admission is the score on the SAT or ACT.

Most colleges have this requirement, but around 850 universities don’t require SAT I or ACT, like Bowdoin: “Bowdoin does not require that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores for the purposes of admission. The college has been “test optional” since 1969.” Go Polar Bears!

However, it’s important to keep in mind that our University of California and California State University systems do require the SAT or ACT for admission and 36 percent of our 2012 graduates are attending a four-year university and took the SAT or ACT (Naviance data base, 2012).

I can strongly speak for the counseling office by saying that we want you to do your best on the SAT. We encourage all of our students to take this test because we want you to have your options open.

So when the school district provided the opportunity to offer the PSAT for free to all of our 11th grade students, we jumped at the chance. What better way to help all of our students than offer this opportunity?

By offering the test on our campus, we are ensuring that all of our students are receiving the opportunity to be exposed to the test. We know how important it is to take the SAT, and practicing can only help.

As Paul Kanarek of the Princeton Review states:

Although there are significant differences between the two tests (the SAT is longer and more difficult, for one), the PSAT is great practice for the SAT. Both require you to use your critical thinking skills to answer multiple-choice questions within a fixed amount of time. The more comfortable you are with this format, the better your SAT scores will be. The PSAT can also give you a general idea of how well you’ll do on the SAT. This will help you figure out which colleges to begin considering, as well as which areas of knowledge to brush up on. If you do poorly on the writing section of the PSAT, for example, you’ll know it’s time to dust off the vocabulary cards or grammar textbook in preparation for the SAT.”

Yes, the PSAT is boring, students finish at different paces, some take it seriously, some don’t.

We can’t know who does or doesn’t want the practice, therefore we offer the test to everyone to be fair and equitable. This will be the first of many standardized tests to take or college admission.

Many adults on campus took the GRE, the LSAT, the MCAT or GMAT. And trust me, if you ask us about those tests, you’ll see us shudder.

To conclude my opinion piece, we strongly encourage all student to take the PSAT because we believe it will help you by getting exposure to the test format and see any weakness you need to work on.

We do not know who will end up going to a four year university that requires the SAT or ACT, but we want to give all our students the option to apply their senior year.

Taking the PSAT during school for free is an amazing opportunity that we hope everyone will partake in with all seriousness.

We are DP, and we will continue to offer equitable opportunities to all our students.

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