Seniors Abby Hsiao, Kai Loh, and Nicholas Schneider have made it to the semifinalist stage of the National Merit Scholar program from their scores on the 2017 PSAT. In order to be considered, students in Illinois had to at least score above 221, a number which is found by adding a student’s raw scores and multiplying by two.
Being a National Merit Scholar helps students receive aid for college tuition based on merit, not need, and is helpful during the application process as well.
“NMS gives me an advantage for being selected by colleges as it puts me in the very top percentiles for my standardized test scores and also provides me with a lot of scholarship opportunities simply from being selected as a NMS,” said senior Kai Loh. “However, just being a NMS doesn’t guarantee me a spot in schools. I still need to put time and effort into applying to colleges.”
Students may overlook the PSAT as an important test, but it can determine how much merit based aid they receive for their college tuition. This, or the fact that the real SAT is waiting in the spring, prompts many juniors to study for the PSAT.
“If you’re serious about scoring highly on the PSAT or the SAT, start studying early,” Loh said. “As much as I hated studying, it really does pay off. For reference, my PSAT sophomore year was a 1280, fairly above average but definitely not NMS worthy. From a few months of studying, maybe about one hour a week, I was able to boost my PSAT over 200 points. It’s certainly not very fun and exciting, but it does come with results.”
Senior Abby Hsiao suggests a pragmatic approach to studying and advocates for students to spend less time reviewing concepts they are already confident in.
“The most important things I would tell underclassmen getting ready for the PSAT would be to focus your studying just on the parts that you don’t feel confident with and don’t waste your time practicing the things you already know because that’s not going to help you,” Hsiao said.
Beyond studying, some students develop a routine, ritual or tradition that helps them enter the testing mindset.
“[I] just [prepare] all the materials I’m going to need the night before so I don’t need to worry about forgetting something early in the morning,” Hsiao said. “I also like to bring a lucky item just to sooth my superstitious side.”