The PSATs: When and Why


Photo credits to The College Board

Logo of the College Board, facilitators of the PSATs, SATs, ACTs, and AP tests.

Massimo Ragonese, Staff Writer

The primary date for the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) was on Wednesday, Oct. 12, and with this came many questions about the PSAT and its background.

The SAT is a national standardized test, used by colleges and universities as one way to narrow down applications. In 1923, Carl C. Brigham, a researcher of IQ and author of “A Study of American Intelligence”, went to Princeton with a plan. The plan would eventually grow into the SAT as the “Scholastic Aptitude Test” and would become required by most schools for admittance. 

The first PSAT would not be used until 1959, as preparation for the SAT. The National Merit Scholarship Program began using the PSAT as its only form of acceptance to their program and is one of the main reasons students take the PSAT. While the PSAT holds no weight in college admissions, the National Merit Scholarship Program grants collegiate financial aid to high school students who perform the best on the PSAT.

Following questions of validity, the PSATs have been tested multiple times to see how useful they are. Such studies have shown a correlation between scores on the PSAT and the SAT. A study performed by Hannover Research in Washtenaw Intermediate School District in Ann Arbor, Michigan found that students who scored well on the PSAT scored higher on SATs and the American College Test (ACT).

As of 2022, Jennifer Scudder is the coordinator of the PSATs at State High, with the main goal of organizing student tests, proctor locations, and collecting testing sheets and sending them to the College Board.

“I think the PSAT is a great tool for being able to prepare yourself for what it is going to be like for when you take the [SAT] for real,” Scudder said, “It gives you an idea of what kinds of questions are on there, how long different sections take, and what it’s like to sit through a test for that long. It gives you an idea of when you come in to take the SAT, what you can expect when you are taking it: when your score really counts for something.”

The PSAT consists of two parts: math and evidence-based reading and writing. It takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete and is scored on a scale of 320-1520; 160-760 points per section as opposed to the 1600 scale of the SATs.

“In ninth grade, it gives a good idea of what standardized testing is going to be like,” Scudder said, “It is actually shorter than the test that the tenth and eleventh graders are going to take. I think [the College Board] realized it’s not [ninth graders’] time to really be thinking about [the SATs] heavily.”

When asked about students’ varied reactions to the PSAT, the State High administration has a variety of answers and helpful tips to get through and past initial worry. 

“For the PSATs, I’d say that this is really just a chance for you to take the test without having to worry about that score necessarily mattering for something,” Scudder noted, “It is really a chance to settle in and take it. And, if you’re nervous about the SATs, the score is something that the colleges look at but it isn’t the only thing colleges look at. You shouldn’t let that score be really stressful because there are lots of other things that will be important for getting into a college.”

SAT registration for Dec. 3, 2022, is available now. If someone plans to study for the SAT, there are many resources to practice for it. On the College Board website, there are more detailed question examples and a free Practice SAT Test.