Standardized tests return during COVID-19

Sophomores+and+juniors+take+the+PSAT+in+person+for+the+first+time+since+the+start+of+the+pandemic.+While+virtual+options+are+emerging%2C+standardized+tests+are+still+primarily+paper+and+pencil.

Sophomores and juniors take the PSAT in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic. While virtual options are emerging, standardized tests are still primarily paper and pencil.

Gail Nuestro, Staff Writer

Colleges and universities have been debating whether or not they are going to require ACT and SAT scores for years. After the last two years, more and more colleges are eliminating the requirement of the tests for admissions. This doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t take them or the PSAT. Students can earn scholarships and points for administration if they perform well on these tests. On Oct. 13, a total of 177 sophomores and juniors at North took the PSAT/NMSQT, known as the preliminary SAT.

“[Administration of the test] was pretty much the exact same,” said college and career counselor Katie Meyer. “We had a pretty good turnout; we tested [both] sophomores and juniors. Last year was a little different because we only did juniors.”

Safety protocols have drastically changed school and work settings due to the pandemic, like the placement of plastic dividers and social distancing signs. For standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, however, these procedures aren’t new.

“There’s a level of privacy needed for the test, so the way that the desks were spread out would definitely need to be the same,” said sophomore Charlotte Brod. “I think that the only difference [with this year compared to previous ones] would be that we had to be wearing masks.”

Both the virtual and hybrid settings last school year have affected students’ ability to actively recall and utilize what they’ve learned, possibly affecting their performance on standardized tests.

“ACT and College Board have kept their standards the exact same in terms of what the test looks like, how to register for it, all of that,” said Meyer.

Students are expected to adapt to the learning curve they experienced, especially now that expectations are held high. This is why many students opted to take the PSAT, to evaluate where they stand in terms of test-taking ability and performance.

“I understood more of the material than I thought I was going to understand, especially in the math portion because I haven’t finished Algebra 2/Trigonometry yet,” said Brod. “I didn’t know everything, but I knew most of it, which was surprising for me. I gained more confidence because I understand the test format a little better and I know how to go about time-wise.”

The Parkway School District incorporates testing preparation into the school year, whether through curriculum or provided dates to take the tests. The district even pays for one session of the ACT for all juniors.

“All juniors are going to take it [the pre-ACT] on Nov. 11, here at school, and on April 5, all freshmen and sophomores are going to take it while juniors take the official ACT,” said Meyer.

Though the PSAT isn’t the official SAT that a student would send to colleges, it evaluates the same areas and concepts that the SAT does. In addition, juniors who score high enough can qualify for National Merit, an academic scholarship known throughout the United States.

“I don’t think there are any downsides to taking the PSAT, other than spending $20,” said junior Kalyan Krish. “You can see where you are and if you’re on track to be ready for more important standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, which can be useful for college admissions. You also have a chance of a scholarship, which is going to be way more than $20.”

It’s a chance that many are willing to take. The hard work behind a score can easily be overlooked, and various other mental and environmental factors reflect on a person’s result as well.

“[Taking the PSAT] raised my respect for people who got super high scores, like a 36 on the ACT or 1600 on the SAT, that’s like one or two questions wrong on the entire thing. It lets you see how impressive that really is, [especially during the pandemic],” said Krish.