The PSAT: A Cautionary Tale

Why You Need to Take the PSAT Seriously

Here I go. I’m about to dive into one of those “when I was your age” speeches.Test

As a side note I just turned 30 last month so I’m now officially old by most teenagers’ standards. Being old comes with its perks though, one of which is that I can now give both the “back in my day” and the “when I was your age” speeches. So at least I’ve got that going for me…

But like I was saying, back when I was a freshman in high school I remember my guidance counselor coming into my homeroom class to talk to us one day.  Now when the guidance counselor came to homeroom it almost always meant one of two things.  It either meant that we were going to be having a captivating discussion on self-esteem, self-respect, or bullying; or it meant that we were getting out of our scheduled class for some kind of state standardized/mandated test.

This time it was the latter.

This time she came to tell our class about a practice test we all had to take, the PSAT. The practice SAT, also known as the “we get to go sit in the school library and take a test that doesn’t mean anything, but gets us out of P.E. class” test.

She mentioned something about the test being a great opportunity for us to practice our test-taking strategies so that someday if we take the real SAT for college admission we’ll be more prepared.

First of all, test-taking strategies; I didn’t even know what that meant. As a freshman the only test taking strategy I had ever heard of was guessing “C” on multiple choice tests when you don’t know what the answer is.

Next, she promised us that if we’d just take it this one time we’d be done with it and we wouldn’t have to worry about taking another test like it until our junior or senior year when we would take the real SAT.

Needless to say, I didn’t give the PSAT much thought. I was usually pretty good at tests so I wasn’t worried.  I figured that when the time came to take the SAT I’d be just fine. And anyways, it was my freshman year; how was I supposed to remember what I learned during a practice test when I wouldn’t even take the real test till my junior or senior year?

I was prodded along with the other students into the library; I sat in my seat and I got to it. I figured that if I hurried up and finished this useless test early then I would have lots of time to doodle on the scrap paper that I brought with me.

I don’t remember a single thing about the test. I don’t remember if it was easy or hard. I don’t remember what types of questions were on it. It’s as if the Men in Black came and Will Smith personally memory swiped my brain immediately after I finished filling in the last bubble.

Maybe Will Smith did a memory swipe on me, maybe not. In all reality, I’m guessing that the real reason I don’t remember much about it is because I didn’t care. It didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t see any reason to put any effort into the test.

By the way, the one thing I do remember is getting done early and drawing a pretty sweet picture of the school librarian as an evil cyborg.  It was awesome.

Take Responsibility

It wasn’t until long after high school that I finally realized how dumb I was. Basically, it all came down to taking personal responsibility. I didn’t take responsibility for my own education. If someone didn’t give me a compelling argument for why I should do something I didn’t do it. In high school I needed to be persuaded to make an effort and if I couldn’t see the immediate and direct benefit of something I simply didn’t participate in that thing; whatever it was.

The PSAT was no exception.

My guidance counselor didn’t adequately show me the benefits of taking the PSAT seriously, so I didn’t. She didn’t tell me that I could get a full ride scholarship based on the results of this “practice” test. She didn’t tell me I could take the test up to three times to try and get that full ride scholarship. She didn’t tell me that high scores on this test would open doors to almost any university. She didn’t tell me the results of this test could change my future in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

When I first found about the importance of that test years later I was a little irked. Well, more than a little. I was ticked. I immediately tried to blame her for my lack of knowledge (and my massive student loans).

But it’s not her fault.

She may have done a lousy job sharing the importance of test, but in all fairness I didn’t ask any questions about it either. I didn’t research it myself. I could have gone online and learned about the PSAT and the National Merit Scholarship. I could have done a lot of things, but I didn’t. As a freshman in high school I thought I didn’t need to worry about college or life after high school. I still believed that it was everyone else’s responsibility to lead me into a bright and successful future.

Shame on me.

The PSAT is NOT a Practice Test

If I had done a little research I would have learned that the PSAT was not a practice test. The “P” didn’t even stand for practice. It stood for preliminary. I would have learned that the test was logic based not content based and that if you spend a little bit of time learning how the questions are formatted you can improve your score dramatically.

In my next post I’m going to share with you the nuts and bolts of the PSAT. We are going to talk about why this test can be nearly as important as the SAT. I’m going to share with you all those things I wish I would have been told about this test when I was a freshman in high school. It’s exciting stuff and I’m eager to get into it. I really hope that you’ll benefit from what we’ll be going over during the next few posts. Wisdom is the ability to learn from the mistakes of others. Learn from my mistakes I’m laying them out there freely as a caution for you.

Until next time.

 

 

 

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One thought on “The PSAT: A Cautionary Tale

  1. Reagan K Reynolds says:

    This was me in high school as well–except I was not “pretty good at taking tests.” Tests terrified me and the PSAT and SAT terrified me most of all. I would say that I have a pretty stable IQ–notice, I didn’t say “high.” I am not sure what “high” and “low” really refer to on an IQ scale, just as I am not sure what number scores can really decipher on the SAT (or GRE, for that matter). I know that I am capable of many wonderful academic achievements but tests have not always reflected my willingness to do so.

    I had to work during high school and I guess I thought that my tip money said more about my immediate achievements than a test score.

    I should have taken high school more seriously. I never would have imagined I would one day dream of an occupation in academia. That said, there is always room to make up for those mistakes… but it is best if you catch them before they happen.

    Thanks for coming by my little corner of the blogosphere. It is always nice to meet like-minded people.

    Best,
    Reagan

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