The PSATs: Does Practice Really Make Perfect?

Looking back at the PSAT I took in my junior year, I can say with a great deal of confidence that I would have much rather taken a screwdriver to my eye and give it a few spins than wake up at 6:00 a.m. to take that dreadful practice test.

Ok, a bit of an exaggeration there, but I will admit that the PSATs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Since I hadn’t even begun to study the material and strategy for the SATs, the PSATs were sort of a joke. I’m not saying I didn’t try my best on the test, but I don’t believe the scores I received on the practice test are an accurate representation of the scores I would receive on the real test.

For those who took classes or hired tutors to study for the PSAT, I would say that they’re a little nuts. A good score on the PSAT is definitely desirable, but I think that studying for the PSAT is just an unnecessary start to the stressful college process. Seeing as junior year is notoriously stressful, and after completing said year, I fully advocate that free massage sessions be available to all juniors. Adding college stuff to a junior’s agenda should be delayed as long as possible.

I also believe the practice test didn’t really display what the real test would be like for me. For one thing, the PSAT is a lot shorter than the SAT. On the PSAT, there are two 25-minute critical reading sections, two 25-minute math sections, and one 30-minute writing skills section, adding up to be an hour and 10 minutes long. On the other hand, the SAT, with an additional five sections including the essay section and a 25-minute experimental section, adds up to be a 3-hour-and-45-minute test.

Hence, the PSAT does not allow students to see how long the actual SAT is, which in my opinion, is an important thing to understand.

Along with the vast difference in time, the PSAT does not include the essay section, which to this day I still do not understand. Being able to shift from an open-ended question to multiple-choice questions is a skill test takers need to have, and should rightly be included on the PSAT to better reflect the actual SAT.

Now, I’m not saying the PSAT was a complete waste of time. The practice test can give students a small taste of what the real test will be like, but more importantly, scoring well on the PSAT offers students a chance at earning a National Merit Scholarship, and who wouldn’t want that?

But money aside, if a student wants to succeed on their SAT, I don’t think it would be the end of the world if he or she slept in on that dreadful morning and skipped the PSAT.

My opinion? In order to succeed on the SAT, one can sign up for an SAT prep course, or higher an SAT tutor, one can go to the library and take out books about the SAT which are extremely helpful (who knew reading books could make you smarter?), and most importantly, one can study vocabulary words like it’s their day job.