(Photo: apstudents.collegeboard.org)

PSAT testing planned for school-wide testing day

On Oct. 14, Country Day seniors will take the SAT and juniors the PSAT on campus.

“Students should plan to arrive on campus at 8:45 a.m. for health screening before their exam,” wrote Head of High School Brooke Wells in an Oct. 9 email to the families of 11th and 12th graders.

On a normal PSAT testing day, sophomores and juniors would take the exam while seniors attended the senior moratorium, where seniors work on college applications, and freshmen participated in a class activity.

However, that won’t be possible this year due to social distancing requirements and space in the library, said Jane Bauman, director of college counseling.

The work done on college applications during senior moratorium also can be made up during C-day lunch meetings held to work on applications, said Bauman. Because class trips were canceled, there’s more time available for it.

This would be the school’s first time giving the SAT, Bauman said.

Senior Lilianne Brush, who has been trying to take the exam for months, plans to take the SAT on the school’s testing day.

Bauman is unsure how many seniors will take the exam because of changes in college admissions.

The University of California and the California State University systems have shifted to test-blind admissions for the next two to four years, and many colleges have become test-optional, Bauman said.

Because of these changes, SAT scores may not be needed for some college applications.

Brush said that the test-optional shift has not affected her plan to take the SAT, but it will impact her applications.

“Even if colleges say they won’t consider it, I worry they’ll give priority to those who have,” she said.

Another change from the normal plan is  for sophomores. Although they traditionally take the PSAT with juniors, they won’t be doing so this year.

Sophomores and freshmen have the testing day off, according to an Oct. 2 email from the school.

Sophomores take the PSAT only as additional practice for the SAT. After taking the exam, students receive a score report with feedback on their performance.

Junior Vanessa Escobar said that taking the PSAT in sophomore year was helpful.

 “It prepared me on what I needed to focus on and improve on,” she said.

Test results can be connected to Khan Academy to help study, Chris Kuipers, associate director of college counseling, said. Students also can access free resources for SAT preparation.

Brush found this aspect of the PSAT useful, as it introduced her to Khan Academy and helped her study.

However, the PSAT has an additional purpose for juniors. They also can use their scores for the National Merit Scholarship program.

High-scoring juniors can become National Merit semi-finalists or finalists and qualify for a scholarship, Kuipers said.

The National Merit program is one of the primary purposes of the exam — another name for the PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). 

From last year’s results, three students were commended, but there were no semifinalists or finalists, Bauman said.

Escobar said this was one of the reasons she decided to take the exam.

“I want all the help I can get for college, and if I qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, it will definitely help,” she said.

However, the PSAT doesn’t significantly impact college admissions.

“Colleges never see your scores. They are not at all concerned with how students do on that,” Kuipers said. “There is no connection between the PSAT and college admissions.”

National Merit scores have the most impact as academic honor students can include that on their applications, Kuipers said. 

However, colleges will understand if there are issues with the exam, Kuipers said.

“Colleges look favorably on it,” he said. “But if the PSAT isn’t able to be given, everyone’s in the same boat.”

— By Samhita Kumar