The date is Wednesday, October 10. Students at Brien McMahon arrive to school at 7:30 a.m., as per usual. However, October 10th is not a normal day. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are taking a critical standardized test, known as the PSAT.
Administered by the College Board, a “non-profit” educational organization, the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) loomed large over the students at school.
According to the College Board website, the PSAT contains “a Reading Test, a Writing and Language Test, and a Math Test.” The recently revamped test also does not penalize students for getting an incorrect answer, as they only offer points for correct answers.
Many students do not realize the large effort that goes into the execution of such a complicated exam like the PSAT. English teacher Dani Brown was in charge of organizing the test schoolwide at McMahon. She explained the process of organizing such a large-scale exam.
“We put in a request over the summer for how many kids we have to test. But then… probably a month out, we get the information from downtown about who is required to test, and that’s when we start prepping here.”
Mrs. Brown noted that the school communicated with the College Board “A lot, to make sure that students are getting the [testing] accommodations they are required to get, and that we have proper materials… we call them once or twice a week I’d say.”
Some people have taken issue with the importance of performing well on the Board’s various exams in order to get into college, as well as the College Board itself. The PSAT itself serves as a sort of a prelude to the SAT, an exam of critical importance to prospect universities.
The Huffington Post noted in 2013 that “research has indicated that a student’s SAT scores are not a particularly good predictor of college success”, while others criticize the exams for a racial or cultural bias.
Max Parizot, a junior, had an issue with the material on the test itself. He told me recently that “All of the questions are over worded, and if they were less wordy, I can guarantee everybody’s score would increase. That’s because most of the time used during the test [by students] are used reading the questions rather than answering the questions”.
Regardless of your stance on the College Board, they undoubtedly play an undeniable role in education at McMahon, and by an extension, the United States of America.
At PSAT day at BMHS, Mrs. Brown described that the College Board did not play a major role “In organizing, on a school level, not much. They’d give us some guidelines for what has to happen. Their job really is just to get us the materials and tell us who has been approved for [testing] accommodations, and after that, it is entirely done in-house.”
PSAT/NMSQT scores are set to release in Connecticut on December 11.