Dear High School Families,
I just wanted to reach out with a reminder that your students will be taking the PSAT/NMSQT on Wednesday, October 25th. Testing will begin promptly at the start of school and last until dismissal.
Please keep in mind the following best practices for test day:
1. Get a good night’s rest & eat a healthy breakfast. (Your brain needs both sleep and nutrition to function at its best!)
2. Arrive to school early and plan to stay until dismissal. (Students are not allowed to begin testing late, nor are they allowed to resume testing if they leave.)
3. Bring your test-approvedcalculator, water bottle, and a sweater or jacket. (I’ll provide the number 2 pencils!)
As many of you may be unfamiliar with the test, I did want to provide answers to some frequently asked questions. Continue reading if any of these questions interest you:
· What is an SAT and why/when do students take it?
· What is the PSAT and why are all of the high school students taking it?
· Should my student be preparing for the PSAT?
· How do students prepare for the SAT?
· What are all the extra letters (NMSQT)?
The SAT is now considered the “Scholastic Achievement Test”. It is intended to be a measure of academic proficiency in content considered foundational to collegiate success. Some colleges and universities require submission of scores from one or more college entrance exams (SAT or ACT). Some are “test-optional” leaving it up to the student. Some schools (namely those who do not consider the entrance exams to be necessary or reliable predictors for success in their schools) will be test-blind and will not consider student scores at all.
As we are a college preparatory school, we choose to prepare students for the SAT to ensure that they have a greater variety of options when determining the best fit colleges for them.
Students will take college entrance exams (SAT and/or ACT) in the spring of their junior year (and can repeat tests several times before applications are due in the winter of senior year).
The PSAT was designed to provide an opportunity for practice, so that students could identify areas where they wished to improve their performance prior to the SAT. We choose to administer the PSAT to the freshmen and sophomores as well. We do this for several reasons:
1. Increased exposure reduces the anxiety students feel on the tests.
2. Each test generates incredibly specific feedback which the student can use to maximize opportunities for growth.
3. Each test can be linked to the Khan Academy to secure free, individualized practice on the skills most immediately beneficial to the student. (It prioritizes based on foundational/difficulty level as well as on test frequency of the topic/skill.
4. Analysis of the aggregate data provides opportunities for our school and network to look for best practices, strategies, and opportunities to improve our curriculum.
However, the first two years of PSAT testing really are intended to be diagnostic. Much of the material presented on the PSAT will not be taught until the end of sophomore or beginning of junior year. Therefore, we wait to encourage concentrated test prep until end of sophomore year, and then only for students who are specifically focusing on the National Merit Scholarship. The rest are encouraged to continue practice beginning in junior year.
Students prepare for the test at school and individually.
PSAT Prep Club will be starting up next quarter. Again, this is targeted at the juniors, more so because it serves as practice for the actual SAT. We will be utilizing Khan Academy and CollegeBoard for their free resources and individualized practice. During our Intro to Test Prep Workshops, I share general test-taking strategies, train students to maximize their practice, and then help the students with their actual practice when they have questions. We are also hoping to offer proctored practice tests sections or Khan Academy time after school or on the weekends.
There are many independent, for-profit companies that have built quite an empire out of the “Test-Prep” industry. It is true that these courses can be beneficial in helping students prepare for the test. Many studies would indicate any preparation (whether through a class or alone) is likely to have the same result. In other words, there are no magic solutions, hints, or short-cuts offered by these companies. They are merely structuring the student’s practice.
Great Hearts is currently in the process of trying to negotiate a discounted rate with one such company to offer network-wide SAT Classes. This should be announced come second semester. Many families do seek out these programs independently, but they can be quite pricey. The Khan Academy has partnered directly with CollegeBoard, so I have serious reservations about paying for a second-hand service when you can get the official practice for free. J
The NMSQT is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
National Merit Scholarship Corporation wanted a way to identify students who would be worthwhile “investments”. They wanted to financially reward students demonstrating proficiency and aptitude for future college success. They paired with CollegeBoard to utilize the PSAT administered in the fall of junior year. This would allow them sufficient time to analyze national test scores, select the top 50,000 or so students across the nation, and commend their academic achievement and preparation for the test. They then begin a process of further review to select a subset of these students for additional recognition as Semi-Finalists and Finalists. Each subsequent level provides greater distinction in the college application process and is linked to additional scholarship opportunities.
I hope I’ve answered all of your questions! You can find additional information about the content of the tests on www.CollegeBoard.org. You can learn about the National Merit Scholarship Corporation at www.nationalmerit.org.
Have a wonderful break!
Ms. Laney Smith