Brief Explanation of the PSAT

Ava Kobos

With October of 2021 came the PSAT, or preliminary SAT. Essentially, the standardized test is a slightly scaled down, less intense version of the SAT, designed to serve as a practice for the real thing. The 3 hour timed test is scored out of 1520. The majority is multiple choice, and is comprised of reading, writing and language, and math sections. The reading and writing sections include questions about provided passages, grammar, and writing clarifications. The math sections include questions and problems through algebra 2, and include a few manually written answers. Both Sophomores and Juniors take the PSAT, and both classes haven’t had a typical experience with the test yet because of the pandemic. Many of us, especially the sophomores, went into the testing day somewhat blind, not knowing what to expect, how to prepare, or how to feel about the process.

The anxiety on test day was palpable. Two-person desks were crowding both courts in the gym, three to four proctors walked up and down the rows to answer questions. There was a variety of rules we had to follow: keep the packet and answer sheet flat on the desk, put your water bottle and calculator cover on the ground, if you get up to go to the bathroom during the test, the time won’t pause for you. And of course, since some students hadn’t taken a standardized test of this length before, some people weren’t sure of the strategies they ought to use or how to manage the time. 

However, as long as you weren’t aiming for a scholarship, this test was relatively unimportant, even if it was stressful. Colleges won’t see PSAT scores, only the SAT or ACT, and many schools are also becoming test optional (although it’s still encouraged to submit a score with your application). There’s still many opportunities to improve your score and develop strategies before the next PSAT/SAT, and this recent one was great for practice. The scores will be released in December, and think of this test as a baseline, an opportunity to see where you need to improve.