PSAT is Free, Easily Accessible This Year

Gigi Appelbaum-Schwartz, Staff Writer

Pali students headed to campus on Wednesday, Oct. 13 to take the mandatory PSAT, provided for free by the school for the first time in years. Organized alphabetically by last name and grade level, each testing room housed about 30 students and a faculty proctor who guided them through the four-part assessment. Test-takers were let out of school around 12:30 p.m., making it a half-day.

Pali testing coordinator Joel Jimenez, who organized this year’s PSAT, gave some insight into the school’s decision to host the test at no cost to the students. 

“This year, we had extra money from the government — COVID funds from the state — and so we elected to use those funds,” he said. “Because of the extra money and because the school wanted to know how much learning loss had occurred during the pandemic, this was a good way to get data on how students are performing.” 

Jimenez also pointed to the increased opportunities that this year’s testing plan provided, describing how it made the test more accessible for low-income and commuting students. 

“For some traveling students, it might be difficult to get here on a Saturday,” he said. “And then, of course, it’s usually not free. So this just opens it up for all students.”

Although this approach was implemented to benefit students, Advanced Placement (AP) European History and AP U.S. History teacher Christopher Berry said that he wishes that teachers had been given more of an advanced notice of the schedule change.

I would like to see the PSAT organized ahead of time next year so that teachers and students can plan for it,” he noted, alluding to the fact that the day was a bit disruptive to his class schedule. 

Pali students also voiced concerns, citing anxiety stemming from the high-pressure culture surrounding college entrance exams. 

“I think that [the PSAT] can be a good marker of how good you are at standardized testing, but a little too much emphasis has been put on them,” Pali junior Layla Adeli said. “Not everybody’s a good test taker so it’s not always fair for a lot of people.

“I’m definitely glad that more colleges are putting less emphasis on [standardized] tests,” Adeli added. “I don’t think a test should be allowed to represent how smart you are, because that’s just not accurate.”

Despite these criticisms, students and teachers widely acknowledge that there is some value in administering and taking the standardized test.  

“I think that the PSAT is a great opportunity for students,” Berry concluded. “It is good for admin to see the [students’] results.”