After hours of study sessions and practice tests, several juniors and sophomores have prepared to take the PSAT Oct. 14. Participating RBHS students will take the standardized test at either Forum Christian Church or the MSHSAA building. Although sophomores and juniors are usually accepted to take the test, this year, sophomores have been turned away.
Director of guidance Betsy Jones said the decision to refuse underclassmen of the test came down to spots and the tests available.
“For three years in a row now we have had a large unused test fee, [so] we decided that we were going to decrease our order [of tests],” Jones said. “Then, for whatever reason, more students than ever have been requesting to test. We have to give priority to juniors because for [them], this is the year the PSAT could qualify them for the National Merit program.”
Considering that many seniors recently named National Merit Semifinalists took the PSAT as a sophomore, those that were refused from taking the test this year have expressed concern.
Senior Zoya Khan, a National Merit Semifinalist who took the PSAT as a sophomore, has reaped many benefits by taking the test early on, including her success in becoming a semifinalist.
“I got to experience taking the test in the exact structure it would be taken when it was important for National Merit,” Khan said. “It got me used to the high stress environment of test taking. It was a great opportunity to get some experience in terms of the PSAT.”
Sophomores will have a different testing experience this year though. Throughout the past few years, RBHS has had over 50 tests left unused. This, paired with an unprecedented overflow of students willing to take the test, prompted CPS to refuse the PSAT to sophomores this year. Compared to last year, RBHS and HHS — the schools that order the tests — requested 35 fewer tests than previous years, reducing the original order of tests from 200 to 165.
Along with these changes came even more alterations to the traditional PSAT. Rather than hosting two test days, this year the district is hosting a single day of testing on Oct. 14, despite having two test days at their disposal. Next year, however, Jones said the school will resume offering Wednesday and Saturday test days.
“PSAT has changed the way they do things, [and] the test has completely changed. What I know is that they’ve made the test [where] guessing doesn’t count against you, whereas before if you guessed you lost points,” Jones said. “They also made the test much more straightforward. In the past, the reading passages [had] very hard names [that] students of the United States might not be familiar with.”
Although underclassmen cannot take the test this time around, Jones said there is a chance the district will be hosting a PSAT spring assessment for the sophomores that were turned away.
Despite sophomores being denied the test, Khan believes they are not missing out on opportunities.
“It is easy to replicate the experience if you get a practice test and take it sitting down and timed without any distractions at home,” Khan said. “Of course, that does require more motivation.”
With many obvious benefits to taking the PSAT, its potential for expanded opportunities might just be the reason behind the increase in students signing up. Junior Jordon Smith is one of the many students taking the PSAT with hopes to advance their future.
“I’m very interested in athletic training,” Smith said. “My parents and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to try and get a scholarship to a university with a great athletic training program.”
Similar to Khan, he also believes the sophomores are not at a huge disadvantage.
“I don’t think the sophomores are necessarily missing out on taking [the test],” Smith said. “They’ll have opportunities either in the spring or their junior year for sure.”
Even though the PSAT will be delayed for sophomores until spring, Khan believes the test is a valuable experience that holds numerous opportunity for those who decide to take it.
“While it is unfortunate sophomores can’t take the PSAT early, the fact that more juniors are taking it is a good thing,” Khan said. “It means that more students are learning about the PSAT and the doors it opens. Hopefully more students will be able to score well and not only potentially receive scholarships but also be better prepared for the SAT.”