Milton Students Step Away From Classes
by Elizabeth Muse on Friday, October 17th, 2014
On Wednesday, October 15th, Classes II and III took the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), while Class IV students had activities and Class I took the day off to work on college applications.
This year marked a change in Milton’s approach to standardized testing. In previous years, Class III students have taken the PLAN test, a practice for the ACT (American College Testing). However, due to the impending changes to the SAT test format which will be implemented in the spring of 2016, the college office decided sophomores should take a PSAT test based on the newer SAT format; the Class of 2017 will be the first to take the “redesigned” SAT.
Meanwhile, juniors took the standard PSAT, a practice test for the SAT. The PSAT differs from the SAT due to its shorter length and lack of an essay component. Around 3.7 million students took the PSAT last year, more than twice the number of students who take the SAT each year. The PSAT test session is 130 minutes long divided into one section of multiple-choice writing, two sections of critical reading, and two sections of math, whereas the SAT is 225 minutes divided into one section of essay writing, two sections of multiple choice of writing, three sections of multiple choice of math, and three sections of multiple choice of reading comprehension.
The PSAT acts as a stepping stone to the SAT. The PSAT allows students to gauge their scores in context to future standardized testing without the added pressure of sending one’s scores to colleges.
Ms. Braithwaite, an English teacher at Milton, says, “Standardized tests are a good measure of how well a student can take a test. It’s really about [whether students] can produce the knowledge quickly and [whether students] can switch ideas really quickly from the math to the English section and so on.”
As the administrators of the test, the College Board states, “The national and state-level results paint a more complete picture of student progress during high school, showing missed opportunities for just-graduated students and areas where action can be taken to improve student outcomes for those still in high school.” For many students, the SAT essentially tests one’s test-taking abilities rather than specific material learned throughout high school. Sophie Cloherty (II) considers the SATs a “test on taking tests rather than a test of a student’s knowledge.”
While the SAT and other standardized tests act as tools to help colleges compare students from various academic backgrounds, some colleges are beginning to step away from requiring SAT or ACT scores in an application. Schools such as Ithaca College, College of Saint Rose, University of Rochester, Lees-McRae College, and William Jewell College do not require standardized testing because they consider grades to be a more accurate representation of a student’s academic ability. Some believe that schools that still require SAT or ACT scores are putting less weight on the scores in the admissions process. Ms. Braithwaite believes “that standardized tests [now] play less of a role in college applications.”
Currently, however, SAT and ACT scores play an important role in the majority of college admissions. Sophie thinks that “a lot of focus is put on a student’s scores, which is why the whole process can be so stressful.” Ms. Braithwaite says Milton’s approach towards standardized testing “gives students testing experience that they don’t have [when attending] private school because the school is not required to implement standardized testing.”
Another aspect of the PSAT is the chance to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship and National Achievement Scholarship. Usually about 16,000 students qualify as National Merit semifinalists and 15,000 of those students then qualify as National Merit finalists. The winning Merit Scholars, around 7,600 students a year, win an award granting them $2,500 to pay tuition for any school.
No matter the reasons for taking the PSAT or the future of these tests and their importance, students must prepare for these tests and ship their scores off to colleges. So while Class IV has fun, Classes II and III takes the tests, and Class I thinks about where those tests have taken them, we should all take a moment to relax and reflect on the true, rather small weight of the SAT.
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