Students Prepare for the PSAT


One of the PSAT Prep programs are being held at the Performing Arts Center.

The air is getting crisper, skeleton decor is popping up in front of houses, and many high school students are preparing for the one other thing that fall is bound to bring with it: the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, PSAT. It is certainly one of the less exciting things about autumn for students across the country but is inevitable nonetheless.

The PSAT tests skills in reading, writing, and math and is often misinterpreted as just a trial run before the SAT. In reality the scores are almost as important as the SAT because the PSAT, also commonly known as National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, NMSQT, scores help National Merit Scholarship programs decide who to give scholarships to. According to Kaplan University, around 180 million dollars in merit scholarships are awarded to students each year. While it is optional, schools greatly encourage students to take the PSAT as it gives them an average comparison to other students in their grade. English 1 & 3 and PSAT teacher, Kandice San Miguel, encourages students to take the test because chances are, with a good score students can find all kinds of scholarships. 

“You should take the PSAT for scholarships. Not only is it just the National Merit Scholarship, there are off-shoots of that scholarship. There’s Hispanic Merit Scholarship and African-American scholarship. There are so many different scholarships that go along with your PSAT score, even if they’re not National Merit, there’s money out there and I think that that’s probably the best reason to take it [the PSAT],” said San Miguel. 

Mansfield Independent School District, MISD, offers many PSAT prep opportunities, like the Top Scholar PSAT Strategy Session at the Performing Arts Center. This program, specifically, is for students who previously had promising grades on the PSAT. This test is rumored to be tough because it is known to have newer topics that some students may not have learned before. The challenge is to be able to use problem-solving skills to answer to the best of their ability. AP Language teacher, Rachel Ryan, from Legacy High School holds a large role in hosting the top scholar program, and is passionate about helping students learn how to efficiently get through the reading and writing section of the PSAT in one piece. In her opinion, the best way to prepare for this test is by building on what you already know. 

“With this specific PSAT prep we are looking at strategies but also providing guidance on how to hold yourself accountable to actually doing the practice because with the practice, really that’s the best way to prep,” said Ryan. 

Students enter these programs for various reasons ranging from academic validation, making their parents proud, and all of the above. Sophomore, Roma Raythattha, takes her PSAT prep very seriously because she knows it will eventually play a huge role in the probability of her going to her dream school, the Medical College of Georgia. Not only would achieving this fulfill her wishes of becoming a doctor, it would also take her parents to their dream state.

“My dad, he’s a medical technician, and he inspired me to become a medical professional and I’m trying to go towards that goal because, I mean, what’s better than saving peoples lives. I want to get accepted into this program called the BS MD program; you can earn your Bachelors in Science and your MD so it has a 3.5% acceptance rate so with the SAT score and the PSAT scores, it’s really competitive, so I’m trying to go for that,” said Raythattha. 

Not all students are going through long courses like these in preparation for the Preliminary SAT, though; some are working through shorter workshops and just at home in general. While the PSAT does sound intimidating, many get through it by keeping a goal in their head, the most common one being college. This specific test is often a newer format for underclassmen who take it and prepare them for college type tests. Test-takers like sophomore, Jenna McDonnell, highly value their PSAT scores and are working towards becoming a more experienced college-level test taker. Personally, McDonnell is most thankful for the PSAT so she won’t be overwhelmed further in her future education. 

“I regard the PSAT with a lot of concentration and seriousness because I understand that that test is incredibly important in training for A, the SAT, and B, also preparing me for those college-level tests because I do plan on attending college so I understand that the PSAT will help guide me through that process and its definitely a milestone in my educational career,” McDonnell said.

Of course, not all students are taking extensive PSAT Prep courses- many are studying at home in their own time. Resources on the internet like CollegeBoard and KhanAcademy have made it easier for students to access free practice tests that give them a general idea of what the PSAT could look like and how to manage the limited time given for the test. Several students, such as sophomore, Giordana Calderin, plan on reviewing the basics of their past reading and math lessons to refresh their memory.

“I do plan on studying a bit because you gotta be prepared and all the things you learned throughout the year- you’re not gonna remember it, so if you just kinda look at them to review for a second I think it will help you be more prepared. I plan on studying each subject like math and reading a bit, just not too in depth cause I don’t think that’s necessary. I think it’s important to pass because, first of all, I rely on academic validation so that’s a big thing for me and I feel like personally that would affect me alot, and also I think it’s important for school in general and how the school system views me as a student,” said Calderin. 

Regardless of the prep students do or don’t take in light of the PSAT, one thing is certain: the test is arriving soon on October 13th and students must prepare for a long day of sitting in a cold, hard seat while being tested in reading, math, and patience.