For many juniors, the Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, more commonly known as PSAT/NMSQT, is arguably the most important test of the year. Doing well on the PSAT/NMSQT looks good on college applications, and is a gateway to scholarships and financial aid.
This year, the College Board released a new format of the PSAT/NMSQT to better reflect the new SAT test that will be released in the spring of 2016. The new PSAT/NMSQT is different from its old cousin in terms of length and content. Juniors had to adapt to a new testing format in order to do well on the test. That is why the two Wednesday test dates of Oct. 14 (recommended) and Oct. 28 (alternate) are atrocious.
Hosting the PSAT/NMSQT on a school day inhibits the performance of students in many ways. In past years, the PSAT/NMSQT has been held on Saturdays. Students can do some last minute studying on the Fridays before without worrying about homework, at least until after the test. Having the PSAT/NMSQT on a weekday means students have to worry about homework and missing classes. While some schools have shortened their school hours to accommodate the test, many others continued with their regular school hours because it is not practical to affect everyone’s learning for the sake of a select group of juniors.
According to the College Board’s website, the College Board is aware that the Wednesday testing “may have an impact on instructional time and create scheduling challenges.” The College Board states that “feedback from educators” affected its decision to release a new PSAT/NMSQT to better prepare students for the new SAT next spring. According to the College Board, launching the new PSAT/NMSQT “meant we could support only two test dates in 2015, instead of two test dates and a makeup date as in the past.” However, these statements do not explain why the PSAT/NMSQT has Wednesday test dates this year. Would it not have been possible to schedule the two test dates for Saturdays as in the past?
The College Board does state reasons for choosing Wednesday test dates, such as allowing students to take the test without interfering with extracurricular activities, work, and religious holidays. While I concede the first two reasons, the third is not necessarily true. The first test date, Oct. 14, happens to fall on the start of a new Islamic year, or Al-Hijra. In addition, in a year of change in format of its tests, the College Board also decided to change the test dates. Having test takers adopt to many new changes may negatively affect their test performance.
The College Board states that Saturday test dates will return in the next school year. While I applaud their decision, I feel that the College Board should not have had Wednesday test dates this year in the first place. Sticking with the Saturday test dates would have made test takers more comfortable with the new test. Change is good, but too much change may have been overwhelming for the PSAT/NMSQT test-takers.