RBHS schedules PSAT, PACT for same date, Oct. 16

Will Cover

RBHS counseling scheduled both the pre-SAT (PSAT) and pre-ACT (PACT) tests for Oct. 16. This serves as a change from last year when RBHS held the two tests on separate days, which allowed for RBHS sophomores to take the PSAT. 

Because sophomores are required by RBHS to take the PACT, however, they are not able to take the PSAT through the school. 

The PSAT serves as a qualifying test for National Merit Scholarships for high school juniors. If a freshman or sophomore were to take the test, it could serve as practice but would not qualify them for the program, as only junior year scores are counted. The score necessary to become a National Merit Semifinalist fluctuates each year, but it equates to being in roughly the top one percent of juniors who took the test in one’s state. This amounts to roughly 16,000 students, who then need to submit essays and a teacher recommendation to become a National Merit Finalist according to the Princeton Review.

“Some students win a $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit Corporation, while others may win larger awards from colleges hoping to attract top scorers,” the Princeton Review explains. 

Because of the scholarship opportunity RBHS ensures the test is available for juniors to take, however, this is not the case for other grades. Because it isn’t crucial that sophomores are able to take the PSAT and scheduling logistics tightening the window of dates RBHS could hold the PSAT and PACT, RBHS Director of Counseling Rachel Reed explained the school made the decision to schedule the tests for the same day.

“There is a narrow test window for the PACT in October, and with the CCV [College Fair] on Oct. 11 and homecoming Oct. 4, we tried to avoid those weeks,” Reed said. “The PSAT date is set by [the] College Board, and since we were already offering the PSAT for juniors on the 16th, we decided to go ahead and give the PACT for sophomores the same day.” 

The school opted to provide the PACT over the PSAT for sophomores because a significantly higher number of RBHS students would eventually take the ACT. 

“We offer the PACT to all sophomores in order to prepare them to take the ACT their junior year,” Reed said. “The district pays for juniors to take the ACT at RBHS during the school day, so the PACT is the best test for sophomores to take to prep for that.  Also, most Rock Bridge students will take the ACT, instead of the SAT, so offering the PACT is more applicable.”

Some students use the PSAT for things other than practice, however. For instance, RBHS sophomore Zihao Zhou was hoping to take the PSAT to gain a score he could use to apply for STEM camps. Because he couldn’t do this, he signed up to take the PSAT at Tolton on a different day. 

“They shouldn’t restrict our ability to take tests,” Zhou said. “I don’t see why it would harm any students, we’re the ones paying for it so it should be our choice. I have to take the PACT for Missouri Scholars Academy, but I still need the PSAT.”

While a small number of sophomores typically take the test, even fewer freshman do. RBHS sophomore Charlotte Geger took the test her freshman year to practice for her junior year. Geger said taking the test her freshman year highlighted the areas where she needed to improve that she could then study for all of her sophomore year. Geger said she would still take the test again if given the option.

“I know what the test is like now, and I understand how it fits together timing-wise,” Geger said. “Particularly because of how different it is from the ACT, this practice increase my likelihood of getting National Merit.” 

Reed isn’t concerned about sophomores not being able to take the PSAT for practice because of already available practice resources.

“With the amount of free practice materials for both the PSAT and the SAT available online now, it’s not really necessary for students to take the PSAT prior to their junior year,” Reed said. 

Additionally, only 17 sophomores actually took the PSAT through RBHS last year, according to Reed, so the change would not affect most students. 

Although Geger isn’t planning to take the test this year, she disagreed with the decision to schedule the PACT and PSAT on the same day for RBHS students. 

“I think it’s helpful to understand how the test works, and sophomore’s should have the opportunity to take it as most high school sophomores do,” Geger said. “It’s unfair to those who have to take it next year that other people in Missouri have the opportunity to take it and they don’t, especially because it’s a percentile ranking against other students in Missouri.”

Do you think sophomores should take the PSAT? Let us know in the comments below.