Every year millions of high school students across the country take the PSAT, a preliminary version of the SAT which includes a series of SAT-based questions. Students are given two hours and 45 minutes to take the PSAT. Even though the PSAT is only a trial run for the real exam in the spring, it does provide an opportunity for scholarship money and various awards for students with the highest grades in the country. As always, Jamesville-DeWitt High School students were a part of the millions who took the PSAT. However, this year the College Board decided that there wouldn’t be a Saturday administration of the PSAT, so all schools across the country were required to administer this year's PSAT on a Wednesday during the school day instead of the usual Saturday during the weekend. All of J-DHS was effected by the PSAT being taken during the school day.
Both students and teachers taking or administering the exam missed morning class time, while the rest of the school was running on an unusual schedule with the first two periods longer than normal and the rest of the periods shortened. English teacher Courtney Romeiser, who was one of the proctors for the PSAT, didn’t like having the PSAT administered during the school day. “You never want to have to have to miss class time,” says Ms. Romeiser. Most J-DHS students who took the PSAT had the same feelings as junior Josh Kowalczyk, who said “I wish it was just kept the same and we took the PSAT on a Saturday.”
J-DHS Principal Paul Gasparini said that the administration got word last winter of the countrywide change for the PSAT being moved from a Saturday to a school day. While some states across the country have already been administering the PSAT during a school day, this year would be the first for New York and many other states.
Principal Gasparini, along with many other New York principals, were not thrilled about the move. “The change to a week day for administering the PSAT drove many high school principals, including myself, crazy for many reasons, one being the fact that it takes away from valued instructional time,” Principal Gasparini says. Principal Gasparini led a charge statewide to pressure SAT to change that decision. The protest included principals from schools in places such as Rochester and Long Island.
The College Board, which is a huge corporation, replied by saying that they couldn't have a third administration of the PSAT, which the principals didn’t ask for. The College Board also said that they felt it was necessary for students to take it on a Wednesday since there is a new SAT for this year’s juniors.
According to Principal Gasparini, the real reason that the PSAT was moved from a Saturday to a school day was because it maximized the amount of test takers which maximizes the amount of profit. “I don’t agree with it, the reasons that the College Board gives are not valid in my opinion,” says Principal Gasparini.
Schools across New York did various things to adapt to the administration of the PSAT during school. Some schools did what J-DHS did where juniors missed morning classes and the rest of the school ran on a modified schedule.
Other schools did different things to accommodate the PSAT being administered during a week day such as having the day off and only juniors went in to take the PSAT, having freshman through juniors take the PSAT, and providing an off school location for administration, among others. Due to the unpopularity of the move, the College Board said that this move was a one-timer and that next year the PSAT will be moved back to a Saturday.
However, the College Board has already made agreements with New York City schools for their schools to administer the PSATs during a school day again next year. “We don't want (the PSAT) during a weekday. I really hope that the College Board stays true to their word,” says Principal Gasparini.
Despite disagreement with the College Board, Principal Gasparini and the J-DHS staff didn’t think it would be fair to not offer the PSAT to juniors. “The PSAT mirrors the new SAT and we believe that our students needed the opportunity,” says Principal Gasparini. National Merit Scholarship qualification is also a possibility for students with the highest PSAT scores in the country, and also played a role in why J-DHS decided to still offer the PSAT.
Going into the PSAT, students expected it to be hard, but it seemed to most that the difficulty was above expectations. “It was one of the hardest tests I’ve ever taken in my life,” says junior Casey Kretsch. “It was a large test for a small amount of time,” says junior Ryan Collins. “I expected it to be hard so I was kind of prepared for that. But even going in knowing it was hard didn’t help that much once I started and realized the test was really advanced,” says junior Jack Austin.
The PSAT consisted of two subjects, English and various types of math. “I think I did good on the English part. The math part was really hard, though, and I didn’t know a lot of it,” says junior Alex Le. Both Kretsch and Collins agree with Le in that the math section was the hardest part of the PSAT. “It was a step up from the English questions,” says Kretsch. “Some of the math was way over my head,” says Collins.
Since the PSAT is the practice for the SAT, the students who took the PSAT utilized the advantage to have a learning experience that will prepare the for the actual SAT. “I’m happy I took the test because now I know what to study,” says Le. Both Way and Kretsch plan on studying online with SAT preparation websites. “I’m gonna make sure I understand what’s taught in class and stay after whenever I need to so I know everything I need to know,” says Austin. Many J-DHS students, like Collins, are working with tutors throughout the year to be ready for the SAT. “I’m going to SAT tutors for both math and English so they can help me know what to expect,” says Collins.
Though the PSAT was considered to be very difficult by most of the J-DHS students who took it and the administration of the test was different from past years, the PSAT experience was a great way for students to learn what to expect when the SAT rolls around in a couple of months with the spring season. J-DHS’s juniors are now aware of what to do to study and what to expect for the important test. “At least now I’m prepared and know what I should study so I can ace the SAT in the spring,” say Kretsch.