BY SOFIA DA MATA

Juniors at the Bay had the opportunity to take part in the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) on Oct. 29 to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program. In response to testing limitations because of COVID-19, this year will be the first time the College Board provides multiple testing opportunities for the PSAT’s. Students interested in National Merit Scholarships can test on Oct.29 or Jan.26. Assessment specialist Adrienne Maisel said she supports this initiative.

“It’s nice that the PSAT is working with the concern of COVID by providing extra dates for testing,” Maisel said. “We will follow all CDC guidelines while administering the test. We have around 45 students registered for October.” 

In accordance with the safety guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), limitations on the number of students testing at the Bay were implemented for social distancing and all students must wear a mask. Junior Julie Jin said she is interested in partaking in the PSAT and she has minimal COVID concerns as she trusts the Bay to abide by the CDC guidelines strictly.

“Everyone is required to keep a mask on and the desks will be far apart. Therefore testing in person isn’t much of a concern for me,” Jin said. “I think [National Merit Scholarship] is a well-known accolade that colleges acknowledge and receiving it is a big deal in terms of getting into good colleges.”

Amidst the pandemic, most students at the Bay are learning virtually. Senior and National Merit Scholarship semifinalist Nicole Vayman said she believes online learning will negatively impact many students’ PSAT performance. 

“I think average scores will decrease. Many students have difficulty learning in this online setting, meaning they might be paying less attention in math and English classes,” Vayman said. “Consequently, they might not know how to answer many questions correctly on the PSAT.”

There are a variety of resources available to help students prepare for the test. Vayman said watching Youtube videos on PSAT practice is a useful tool that provides insight into studying skills to utilize for maximum success. Vayman said she has shared her test-taking advice for aspiring National Merit scholars. 

“[I always tell people] most importantly know your weaknesses,” Vayman said. “Realistically it’s much more difficult to divide your energy across the reading and math sections, instead focus on one of the two and aim to get the highest score possible in there.”

 The PSAT aims to prepare underclassmen for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), in which the scores are required by most colleges for admissions. At the Bay freshmen and sophomores are provided free PSAT testing annually. Sophomore Connor Lirio said taking the PSAT is beneficial for students to form an idea of how to prepare for the SAT. 

“Taking the PSAT is a great way to show students not only the format of the test but how prepared we are for the SAT,” Lirio said. “ Besides the PSAT provides scholarship opportunities for me.”