PSAT & SAT: How Stressed Are You?

Amid student burnout, standardized tests raise the bar

Yordanos Astatike, News Reporter

The SATs & PSATs have just passed! April 12, 2023 was the official set date for both the PSAT and SAT. How stressed were you?

Taking standardized tests has never been fun, and it doubtfully ever will be. There is so much pressure to do your best, which brings the question: what if my best isn’t enough? This leads students into stress and panic when considering tests that can greatly impact your future. 

The end of the year is always a stressful time for students. Photographer: Milko Sado

In the book, Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation, author Vicki Ables refers to this generation as “the most tested generation in history”.  Throughout our school years testing only increases, and it is at its highest during high school.

The PSATs and SATs are one of the many tests we have to take as the school year comes to a close. In arguably the most exhausting quarter of the year, we ask, how can we be more prepared and less stressed?

Secondary counselor, Ms. Brauhn shares important information to understand the basics of both tests. In her own words, she thoroughly explains what you should know.

How important are the PSAT/SAT scores in college acceptance?

“First of all, let’s separate the two – PSAT is the practice SAT and those scores are never released to colleges.  The scores are meant to give a baseline for students to see what they need to work on and have an idea of what their SAT score might be. It’s important for students to do their best on the PSAT so they can see their strengths and weaknesses.

The SAT is an official test with a score that can be released to colleges.  If a student takes the SAT more than once, many colleges will take the highest combined score (verbal and math).  The good news is that no college in Colorado can require SAT scores for acceptance. 

 However, other states still do and for the purpose of scholarships and supporting documentation, SAT scores can significantly boost a student’s chance of getting into a school and/or getting scholarship funding. So it’s important to take it seriously!”

If students don’t do well on the PSAT/SAT, what can they do instead to boost their application?

“If a student isn’t happy with their PSAT/SAT scores, they should review the areas they were weakest in, in preparation for the following year or if retaking the SAT, however a poor SAT score isn’t going to stop a college from accepting an applicant.” 

She details, “Other ways to boost a college application is to make sure transcripts are strong (having a full class load through the end of their senior year, taking rigorous classes, and having grades at C’s or above).  Many colleges will choose an applicant who takes more rigorous classes but with a lower GPA, than an applicant who takes easy classes and has straight A’s. In addition to the transcript, teacher and counselor recommendations are very important. 

Another area that colleges weigh their decisions on is extracurricular activities and community involvement.  At Lotus, we no longer require volunteer hours, however many colleges highly value those hours in addition to seeing involvement in sports and/or clubs to show that students are well rounded.”

What can students do to be more prepared and less stressed about the PSATs/SATs?

Ms. Brauhn suggests tackling the issue in two ways. She explains, “As with any test, it’s important to take it seriously but don’t overstress.  Attend class daily, take thorough notes, ask questions, and always do your best.  The SAT is an aptitude test, so it tests reasoning skills and verbal abilities, versus content and what a student has learned.  Before any test, it’s important to get in a good meal, a good night’s sleep, and use positive affirmations.” 

She affirms her points stating, “Also, the SAT can be taken as many times as a student wants.  It is only offered at Lotus once a year for juniors, however students can register for other dates and locations if they’d like to retake it.  If students receive free or reduced lunch, I have a fee waiver and they do not need to pay for the exam. It’s important to take it seriously and try your best, but it can be retaken numerous times and isn’t the only deciding factor for college entrance.”  

Ms. Shetiya, shares advice from a teacher’s position. She advises students to do the following:

When asked what is the best method of preparation, she emphasizes, “Practice, Practice, Practice. Solve lots of Practice Tests. Practice improving your speed and avoiding careless mistakes.”

She also shares some key tips to overcome certain obstacles in the test. She offers the following strategies:

  • Eliminating obvious wrong choices
  • Back-solving by plugging in answer choices to check.
  • Memorize important formulas
  • Answer ALL questions as there is no negative scoring for wrong answers

Ms. Shetiya explains how it is highly suggested for students to take the SAT & College Prep courses as it would benefit your academic future. She emphasizes, “Although colleges might say that they are test-optional, submitting your SAT/ACT score will give you a better chance at getting admission into your college of choice, scholarships, and place you in higher level classes.”

As tests are swiftly approaching, we hope that you take these suggestions into consideration for yourself. However, ensure to prioritize your mental health and feel free to utilize resources at school or in the community to address your needs. 

As always, reach out to your teachers and counselors with other questions.