Published Nov. 12, 2021
BY SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR
Students applying to college often rely on any form of assistance that will help set themselves apart from the millions of other students also applying. That’s why students turn to the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT, which offers students an opportunity to prepare for the SAT and was available at CHS until the 2020-21 school year when it was canceled due to COVID concerns and the decision to stop requiring standardized test scores on many college applications.
This is the second year that the PSAT will not be offered at Carmel High School, with the trend being observed throughout the U.S. last year due to concerns of having a large group of students indoors for an extended amount of time.
“In response to the pandemic, the College Board paused testing in March, May and June 2020, impacting the ability of the Class of 2021 to test,” the College Board said in an article describing the sharp decrease in the number of test-takers during the 2020-21 school year.
Citing a more indefinite source for this year’s cancellation than the pandemic alone, CHS administration has also taken into account the usage of the SAT and ACT by colleges in applications.
“If colleges return to the SAT as a requirement for college admission, we will revisit the PSAT as a practice option for students,” Principal Jon Lyons said recently in an email to parents.
Many local high schools, including Pacific Grove High School, have opted to not offer the PSAT this year as well, raising questions of whether there will be a permanent decrease in the number of test-takers and test providers.
“For me, it has been difficult to find nearby locations that are offering these tests,” junior Sage Melton says. “I definitely think the PSAT is a good method of preparation for the SAT and ACT exams, and I hope to be able to take it soon.”
CHS will continue to evaluate factors regarding the test on a year-to-year basis, with no permanent decision made yet.
“The current decision only applies to this year,” CHS counselor Yesel Von Ruden explains. “We will reevaluate in spring this year to see if we will be offering it next October.”
Previously taken annually by roughly 320 CHS students, the test is mostly geared towards 11th-grade students, with only a limited number of seats being offered to 10th graders. With the decision to not offer the test at CHS, students of both grades have had to turn towards other methods and locations for taking the test.
“Having to plan the PSAT test-taking location was a bit annoying,” says sophomore Calla Lyons, who took the PSAT on Oct. 13 while in Hawaii for October break. “I also know that people do better on tests in places and environments they feel more comfortable in, which may have been a disadvantage for me.”
Many colleges, such as those within the University of California system, have stopped requiring or even accepting SAT and ACT scores on their college applications, resulting in a decrease in the number of test-takers for the SAT and ACT as well as the PSAT.
Still, with many private and other universities continuing to require standardized test scores on their applications, CHS students hoping to use the PSAT as a way to prepare for the SAT were disappointed to hear that the school was no longer offering the test.
“I think it’s important to still have the option of the PSAT because a lot of CHS students, including myself, will apply to some out-of-state schools and private schools where test scores can help your application,” junior Jerry Marnell notes.
Often referred to as the PSAT/NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, the test for juniors offers an opportunity for high-achieving students to earn their way onto recognition lists and receive scholarships. Being chosen for nationally recognized academic lists, such as the National Merit Commendation, and their affiliated scholarships is a multi-step process of evaluation and can be an impactful opportunity for many students.
“I’m going to prepare for the tests on my own,” junior Will Hand says. “But it’s unfair that the school got rid of the program because it’s beneficial to lower-income students.”
The PSAT allows students an equal opportunity to get a good sense of their future SAT scores and to complete a practice run for the test in a similar environment and style as the actual test. Preparing for the test itself and improving a score can come in many different forms.
“Performance in your classes is the most effective way to prepare for the test,” Von Ruden adds. “It is what you learn in your curriculum on a day-to-day basis that is being tested in these tests.”
PSAT testing takes place nationally throughout the last half of October, with the primary test-taking day being on Oct. 13 this year. Students can expect their scores on Dec. 6 or 7.