PSAT: Freshmen Views

Desiree Pico, Co-Editor in Chief

Each fall, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors across the country take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT. This 2 hour and 45 minute test is practice for the official SAT, which students are required to take for college acceptance. While performance on the PSAT is, arguably, more important for juniors because of their rapidly-approaching college applications, it is also significant for freshmen. The PSAT is a freshman’s first encounter with a standardized test in their high school years.

This new experience offers them the chance to preview and practice the style of questions they will encounter on the future SAT, allowing them more time to prepare for the test-taking rush of junior year.

Despite the PSAT being so similar to the SAT, there are some key differences, such as the score range. The highest possible score on the PSAT is a 1520, versus the SAT’s 1600. But the most significant difference is that the PSAT gives high-performing students the potential to earn a scholarship. If they achieve a high enough PSAT score, they are eligible to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).

Mr. Sammy Iassudo, TERRA’s testing chair, is a firm believer in the benefits of offering the PSAT to students as early as their freshmen year. “I think exposure to the test questions and then familiarity with it helps those with anxiety by the time they take the real exam,” he said. Though he admits that the freshmen may be slightly “at a disadvantage” because some of the math on the PSAT is at a higher level than most freshmen have taken, he still believes that the practice pays off. Since TERRA began administering the PSAT to freshmen, there has been a significant increase in the number of National Merit Scholars, which is “very good news for the students.”

Prior to administering the exam, Iassudo had to put in a lot of work to ensure that everything ran smoothly, braving the “nightmare” of preadministration once again. This year, Iassudo had a large amount of freshmen registering after the deadline, which caused more problems for him, but he thought was worth it. “You don’t quite often hear students coming up to people saying, ‘Hey, I want to take that test!’ So if somebody wanted to come, then I tested them to give them the opportunity.”

Freshman Kristina Poig is one student who is looking forward to this possibility of a scholarship in her future. She thinks that taking the PSAT now, despite college being relatively far away, will allow her enough time to practice achieving a high enough score to qualify for the NMSQT. “I think it’s a good way to get a good start on [SAT preparation] and get some chances to get a scholarship, maybe,” she said. Overall, Poig found this new experience to be “pretty good overall.” She said, “Everything went by very smoothly; the test wasn’t too difficult or too easy.”

Adrian Fiandor also found the PSAT to have gone smoothly. “The experience was nice overall. I only had a problem with the time. I found myself not having enough time to finish a couple problems towards the end there,” he said.  

Other freshmen, however, did not find the test to be as easy as Poig and Fiandor did. Christian Paan was one student who, despite admitting that it showed him which areas he needs to work on, found it to be less than interesting. Paan said, “Overall, the experience made me sleepy. The stories and articles were all okay; it was just good, that’s it.” Like Fiandor, Paan found the timing of the PSAT to be a bit challenging. “It was too long and was separated into too many parts. I had too little time for it,” he says.

The PSAT was administered to 1,299 students this year, a very large number of students, especially for a school as small as TERRA. According to Iassudo, this amount is comparable to the amounts of students taking the test at larger schools like Ferguson and Palmetto. Before the students are able to take the test, there is a lot of work that goes into making sure it can be administered smoothly. “There are always little kinks in the administration process,” says Iassudo. “On my end, I think I was accepting students paying till the last minute and that caused more of a problem for me, but I wanted to give every student an opportunity to test if they wanted to.”

For next year’s PSAT, Iassudo hopes to learn from the setbacks from this year and adjust the administration plans accordingly. “Administratively, at the end of the day, I think my concern is to make sure that the test security is in place so that no tests get invalidated and that the test room is setup to be conducive for students to take the test and have everything collected and as smooth as possible.”