Sophomore PSAT Day

Bianca Stelian

When the notion of standardized testing is brought up to Latin’s current sophomores, the reaction is usually negative.  Those of us who applied for high school had to sit for the ISEE back in eighth grade, an unenjoyable task to say the least. Additionally, regardless of one’s tenure at Latin, the pressure to start preparation for the ACT and SAT is always a topic of conversation in the halls of this school.  Students grill others as to what their strategies are, how early they’re starting, and what their target scores would be. Others, however, prefer to remain quiet, as the discussion of such a college preparation creates more nerves and tension.  It was only fitting that such sentiment arose from Latin School’s class of 2016 when we came together on October 16th to take the PSATs.

The day began at 7:45, with the majority of the grade being present in the gym to begin the test, but it took a solid half hour to deal with attendance as well as the slow percolation of late students.  Thus, at 8:15, we began the exam, but not before a lengthy explanation of every single stipulation and form pertaining to the test (which may have even exacerbated some people’s nerves even more).  Some students to whom I spoke felt patronized—“I know I’m in tenth grade,” said one anonymous source.  “I didn’t need for them to remind me of that repeatedly like I’m in kindergarten.”  Others felt like the more technical details of the test, such as information questions about date of birth, ethnicity, gender, and high school tenure, should have been filled out after the test.  “It’s a distraction and feels really monotonous,” said another source who wished to be kept anonymous.  “Why couldn’t we have just started the test, gotten it done as quickly as possible, and then completed the necessary information parts?”  While these are understandable wishes, it is doubtful that the process will change, as this method of test taking has been commonplace at Latin for years.

It’s difficult to discuss the actual PSAT itself as it is not extremely relevant to us this year.  By name, it means ‘Preliminary SAT,’ and it does not count for anything until junior year.  Despite the fact we had been told repeatedly to assuage our confusion and worries, many sophomores did feel some level of stress about the test.  A great amount of students confessed to not even finishing most of the sections due to time constraints, which worried them for future tests.  Others questioned whether college prep tests (i.e. the SAT and ACT) are similar to the PSAT and whether taking the PSAT would help prepare for said tests.  Some students even voiced concern regarding the section we filled out asking about our desired occupation, and if that would be shown to colleges.  While I am relatively sure that specific details occurring on the sophomore PSAT don’t impact us for colleges, it would be best for extremely concerned students to consult the college counselors themselves.

The rest of the day was meant to bring the grade together while beautifying the park across from Latin.  Students were taught how to ‘mulch’ (for the second year in a row) and then set off throughout the park with directions on how to help sustain the parks’ trees by adding mulch to their bases.  While I am still not totally sure about how the whole process helps the trees, the grade did its best in order to help out around the community. This was, however, not a smiling affair—many students wondered why we were being forced to do this after a grueling morning of test-taking, and this negativity was furthered when we heard that some freshmen were playing capture the flag, or that the current seniors, after taking their sophomore PSATs, had gone bowling.  While I believe the current sophomores appreciate the idea of community service and are willing to act in ways that benefit the neighborhood around our school, it seems as if enlisting us to do such deeds after taking a nerve-wracking test is simply bad timing.

Ever since we took the PSATs, talk of the test has definitely waned.  People seem to be curious of their scores, yet nobody wants to discuss the topic.  It was an incident that has given us a snippet of what current seniors must feel, with their pressure during the college application process, and I can say almost definitively that as a grade, we are thankful we won’t have to deal with it again until next year.]]>