Students Take PSAT

Nevin Hall, Staff Writer

Every year, juniors across the country prepare for the PSAT, a test run by the College Board that prepares students for the SAT and qualifies juniors for the National Merit Scholarship. The test is standardized, but in a pandemic, the school year is shaping up to be far from standard.

This year, for a variety of reasons, the PSAT looked different from normal. Many students did not take the PSAT this year due to COVID-19 concerns, others were forced to take the exam over the internet and juniors took a socially distanced in-person test. Concerns over COVID-19 have also permeated the planning process for administering the exam.

Magnet Director Andy Paulson was a part of the planning process for the PSAT this year. According to Paulson, there have been multiple versions of the plan for PSAT testing.

“I think we’re on plan E, E or F,” Paulson said. “It’s been colossally different for the EOC test, for the STAAR test. It’s just been plan after plan after plan.”

It has not only been the planning process for the execution of this exam that has changed, but also how the exam is valued by different groups of test-takers. Suzanna Ammenheuser, owner of Be You College Coaching, is aware of the different College Board criteria to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

“The PSAT that the 11th graders are going to take is the same PSAT that they would have taken in the real world for National Merit qualification,” Ammenheuser said. “Anybody who chooses to take the PSAT at home, 10th or 11th graders, then they will be taking a practice, which is an important distinction.”

In a normal year LASA students take a junior-level PSAT as both freshmen and sophomores. Junior Sally Edwards feels that practice tests are important for preparation.

“I think it made me feel a lot more comfortable taking the actual test,” Edwards said. “ get pretty nervous for finals, or big tests and stuff like that, and being able to have that sense of repetition — just having that sense of a pattern, I think, helped me not feel as worried for this time.”

Some students took PSAT/SAT prep courses along with their freshman and sophomore year PSATs. Ammenheuser agrees that the preparatory PSATs freshmen and sophomores take at LASA can be useful for the junior year PSAT.

“I think the sophomore one is important,” Ammenheuser said. “The sophomore one is important because it gives you a benchmark for what you need to practice before your junior year PSAT, which matters.”

For freshmen and sophomores at LASA this year, their PSAT was over the virtual medium. Paulson understands the possible consequences of this new testing experience, especially when it comes to cheating.

“If the kid takes it seriously and takes it in their home, and they don’t use any other materials, and they do the same thing they would have done if they were taking it in person, I think it’s going to be valid,” Paulson said. “Now, if a kid cheats, they’re only going to get the score, they would have cheated.”

 According to  Ammenheuser, the question is whether or not the test scores will be affected by the circumstances the world is under at this moment.

“I think the scores will probably look the same,” Ammenheuser said. “I don’t think there’s been enough gap in learning to make a difference, so I don’t think there’s going to be any penalization for students that are taking it now.”