PSAT testing reimplemented for underclassmen

On Nov. 8, 2021, students and guardians received an email from ETHS explaining that the state of Illinois had mandated a return to both 9th and 10th graders taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT). Receiving this news was surprising to many students because, during the 2020-2021 school year, there was no PSAT due to COVID. Many also thought that after the year online, ETHS might move away from standardized testing. In the minds of students, standardized testing often goes hand in hand with junior year and preparation for college applications. But since this requirement has been re-implemented, 9th and 10th grade students have started to care about this extremely stressful and time-consuming test sooner than some expected.

The  Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a multiple-choice test that was created and is administered by the College Board. It is a three-hour test and includes sections on math, reading, and writing. High school students often begin taking this test in their junior year. To practice for this highly rigorous test, students take the PSAT before and during their junior year. The PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 will be given to the freshman and sophomores, while the juniors take the SAT.

There are mixed opinions on requiring these younger students to take this test. Some think this might be a good step in preparing the freshman and sophomores for what is to come as a junior, and even further ahead for what college applications will entail. But on the other hand, it could be putting students in a frustrating or anxious situation that they won’t truly have to encounter for at least another year.

College and career coordinator Beth Arey shares how this decision could affect the college paths of the students. “The PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 will only help to guide students in their college access opportunities. Practicing for standardized tests can aid in improved scores, test prep awareness, and informed academic choices… Being prepared for the SAT, through practice, could be essential by the time current freshmen and sophomores are applying to college.”

This test does give the opportunity to get more familiar with what questions on the SAT will be like. Additionally, it will help students gauge where they are score-wise and what subjects they might need to focus their studies on to improve performance. 

So, although this beginning test isn’t meant to be high-stakes, many of the underclassmen still feel that way. 

Freshman Maya Ahleman thinks about the effects it may have on her and her freshman peers. “I think ninth and tenth graders taking the PSAT will make us consider our futures a lot more quickly. Thinking about test scores for college as a freshman could be very taxing on students.”

Test-taking for students of any grade can bring extreme nerves and anxiety, and this large assessment could very likely amplify those feelings. This decision could be putting unnecessary stress on underclassmen, many feeling unprepared. 

“I feel like it is just unneeded, to make younger students practice to take a test that is so far in the future,” sophomore Jeremiah Lobin Schwartz shares “I also haven’t heard anything about the PSAT from my teachers, so I feel very unprepared for it, and I don’t really know what I should be studying or if I need to be studying at all.”

Even though some students seem to think these tests are unnecessary, they are valued across the globe. Many think there is no harm and just give students extra practice for a future test.

“I am comfortable with students taking a no-stakes test that seeks to prepare them for future standardized tests which can aid in the college admission/scholarship process,” Arey says.

Students also are just coming out of a time where many didn’t get direction with testing in general due to being at home with remote learning. Coming off of the unconventional online year could cause many to feel nervous about taking this impactful test with little to no knowledge about it, and the inexperience of high school testing in general. 

“Last year, online, we didn’t really have a lot of preparation to take standardized tests like the SAT and PSAT, so a lot of students might feel extra nervous and/or unprepared,” sophomore Corrine Perez explains.

Students felt a lot of pressure around standardized tests even when the pandemic wasn’t contributing to stress over them, and what students are most anxious about tends to be the score that they receive.  

“A student shouldn’t connect their identity to how well they do [on standardized tests]. And I think that sometimes the lasting effects of standardized testing can be really stress-inducing and anxiety-inducing,” English teacher Angela Sangha-Gadsden shares.

Although there have been efforts and movements that stand against these standardized tests, it seems that ETHS still believes in the value of them and continues to push their importance on students. 

“I think it’s always good to practice something before you actually do it, especially with things that are higher stakes, like the SAT,” Sangha-Gadsden says. “The PSATs can also communicate to the child’s parents and a school how a student is doing in these certain skills.”

The week of April 11, a focused student body will be taking these lengthy tests. The juniors will finally be taking the test for which they have studied weeks upon weeks, and the freshmen and sophomores will get a sneak peek at their fate that follows once they reach 11th grade.