PSAT testing reveals opinions about standardized testing among students

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Students have mixed emotions regarding the importance of standardized tests.

Maryann Dang, Staff Writer

On Oct. 12, contrary to the average school day, MSMS juniors did not go to any classes. Instead, they woke up bright and early to take the mandatory Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test, also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, offered by the school. 

The PSAT is an exam offered to all juniors across the nation. After taking the test, they are ranked based on their scores. If they place within the top 1% of their state, they may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

Because of the scholarships students can qualify for through the PSAT, it was important to many MSMS juniors that they did their best. Junior Julia Nguyen said she felt pressure to not let these opportunities slip away. 

“I did feel a bit of pressure by all the possible outcomes,” Nguyen said. “If I did really well, I could get scholarships that take off fees for college, which is something I’ll have to think about soon since I’m a junior.”

However, other juniors said they felt the PSAT was not worth stressing about. Junior Sydney Beane said comparatively speaking, the PSAT was not so important.

“I feel like, compared to the other standardized tests we take throughout the year, it’s one of the least important [tests]. You’re probably going to prioritize your ACT or your state tests [over the PSAT],” Beane said. “However, you should still do your best since you know the opportunities that could come from it. I think the general consensus among the student body was that we weren’t going to stress but do our best.”

The PSAT is only one of a multitude of standardized tests that follow a similar format with similar stakes. Generally, standardized tests are split into sections by subject area. Each section is usually timed and given almost back-to-back. These tests generally either get sent to colleges along with your application or qualify you for certain scholarships, such as the National Merit Scholarship. 

MSMS students had varying opinions about these tests. Junior Ean Choi said he enjoys the predictability of them, but he realizes they aren’t for everyone. 

“I enjoy standardized testing,” Choi said. “I find it easier for me. I think the questions are generally easier and the patterns are more fun to figure out. However, I don’t feel like it’s a good measure of a student’s abilities. There are definitely other types of intelligence and reasons why people can’t perform well on standardized tests.”

Junior Lucianna Marquez said different factors of standardized testing play into why a student may not do as well as they could do on test day. 

“I think test stamina is a big issue,” Marquez said. “For me, the science section of the ACT was especially bad with this. I think I could have done a lot better on it if I wasn’t so fatigued after taking the other sections of the test before it. There’s also the stress of it being a timed test. When I took the PSAT, I had to skip over problems and come back to them later just so I’d have enough time to get to everything. I think that stress definitely affects my ability to think clearly and quickly.”

One of the key aspects of standardized testing is it provides students with a score they can submit to colleges along with their application. However, Senior Richard Zheng said these days, colleges are placing a lot less emphasis on these scores.

“I don’t think test scores will be the reason why people get into top universities,” Zheng said. “However, I do believe that students could be disqualified from the admission process based on their test scores. I know that a lot of [Ivy league schools] are shifting towards becoming test-optional, so perhaps test scores are becoming less and less important.”

Although students may have differing opinions about standardized testing, they understand both the drawbacks and benefits of tests like the PSAT. 

“Students may place different weight on tests like the PSAT, but overall, they understand their individual needs,” Nguyen said. “Those that value the scholarships and opportunities that come with the PSAT will put emphasis on it, and those that value other things will put their energy towards what matters to them.”