2012년, 고등학생들이 보는 PSAT가 10월 17일, 20일에 있고 응시료는 $14이다. 이 응시료는 학교마다 차이가 있다.
SAT가 미국의 대학 입학시험이라면 PSAT는 ‘모의 대학 입학시험’ 즉, SAT를 준비하기 전 각자의 현 실력 점검 차 보는 시험 정도로 이해하면 된다. 그런데 PSAT 뒤에 PSAT/NMSQT 라는 이름이 붙어 있는 것을 본 적이 있을 것이다.
이것은 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test의 약자로서, PSAT 시험의 성적 결과에 따라 미국에서 유명한 장학금 중의 하나인 내셔널 메릿 장학금 수혜자가 될 수도 있기에 붙여진 명칭이다.
내셔널 메릿 장학금 National Merit Scholarship이란 1995년 이후 매년 대학 진학 학생 가운데 7,900여 명에 $2,500씩 지불되는 National Merit Scholarship, 기업체에서 후원하는 Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship, 그리고 대학이 후원하는 College-sponsored Merit Scholarship 세 가지를 일컫는다.
학생의 11학년 때의 PSAT 점수와 12학년까지의 성적 SAT, 카운셀러 추천, 에세이등의 자료를 토대로 최종 선발된 우수 학생들이 위 세 가지 장학금 가운데 한가지씩의 혜택을 받게 된다.
PSAT는 수학 Math Problem-solving skills 80점 만점, 독해력 Critical Reading Skills 80점 만점, 문장력 Writing skills 80점 만점으로 총 240점 만점이다. SAT가 각 파트가 800점 만점으로 2,400이 만점이니 0을 하나 더 붙이면 SAT 점수라 생각해도 된다. 시험소요 시간은 총 2시간 10분. 한편, ‘PSAT가 SAT보다 쉽다’는 것은 오해다.
PSAT는 9, 10 학년 때에도 응시할 수 있다. 단, 위에 언급한 바와 같이 내셔널 메릿 장학금과 관련이 있는 것은 11학년 때 치른 PSAT에 한한다.
텍사스는 대략 216~219점 정도를 받아야 장학금을 생각해 볼 수 있다.
나의 경험으로는 10학년 때 PSAT 220을 넘긴 학생들이 11학년 PSAT서 안정돼 내셔널 메릿 장학생이 되었다. 하여 SAT 공부를 9학년 때 시작해 10학년에 PSAT를 치르고 그 점수를 살펴보면 11학년 PSAT를 예비하는 데 도움이 될 것이다.
여러 학교들이 National Merit 학생들을 많이 배출하기 위해(그 학교의 명예가 되므로) 10학년 PSAT 성적 우수 학생들을 따로 뽑아 SAT 수업을 하기도 한다.
PSAT/NMSQT는 SAT 시험을 주관하는 College Board와 내셔널 메릿 장학금을 주관하는 National Merit Scholarship Corporation이 주관한다.
이상 살펴보았듯이 PSAT는 고교생들에게 상당히 중요한 시험이다. 성적이 전국적으로 평가되기 때문에 자신의 현 위치를 파악할 수 있으며, 곧 치르게 될 SAT 점수도 예측 가능해진다.
학교 성적이 좋은데 의외로 PSAT나 SAT 점수가 잘 안 나오는 학생들이 꽤 있다. 학교 내신은 사실 지역에 따른 차이가 있기 때문이 아닌가 한다. SAT를 보기 전 미리 PSAT 공부를 해두라 적극 권하고 싶다.
What is the PSAT/NMSQT?
The PSAT stands for the Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a practice SAT test that younger students often take for free at their junior high or high schools before preparing for the SAT. It is in a similar format to the SAT, divided into Critical Reading, Math, and Writing Multiple Choice sections. The PSAT can be considered a practice test as it serves as measure of a student’s current ability, or predicted ability on the actual SAT. Because of this, some students may feel tempted to ask, then why bother taking the PSAT? Couldn’t you just buy a practice SAT book instead or take a course designed to prepare for the SAT?
The answer is, of course, that you could skip taking the PSAT/NMSQT, but that would be an unwise decision. Aside from showing older junior high and younger high school students their problem areas before taking the actual SAT, the PSAT/NMSQT scores are reported to National Merit and lead to some 8,200 scholarships for universities yearly. Scholarships mean free money that does not have to be repaid. If your scores are competitive, you could be in the running for these types of scholarships. In addition, many colleges, will often offer significant sums of money in the form of grants or free tuition to National Merit finalists. National Merit finalists are aggressively recruited by colleges because it is in a university’s best interest to boost its reputation with strong academic talent.
Consider the PSAT as a signal to universities that you exist. Once you take an official PSAT, you should expect that universities that are interested in you attending their school will begin sending you unsolicited mail. This means that you may not have contacted the school, but they are aware of your talent, wherever your strengths may be and want you to attend their school.
If you take the PSAT, regardless of your score, it is important that you continue to improve your scores by preparing for the official SAT exam. Colleges and Universities do not accept PSAT scores as final scores because PSATs are just preliminary exams to reveal where you need practice. The SAT is the real exam. Think of the PSAT like a racecar game in a video arcade. While it is merely a game, and not actual driving, it can still reveal to you some driving strengths and weaknesses before you get behind the wheel of an actual vehicle. Still, taking the PSAT is an initial step toward securing a bright future.
Qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship Program
To be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, a student must: A.) take the PSAT/NMSQT during his or her 3rd year (junior year) of high school B) be in high school and plan to enroll in college full time by the fall after his or her high school graduation and C) be a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident with the intention of becoming a U.S. citizen. If a student meets these requirements, he or she will automatically be eligible to participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP).
After the PSAT/NMSQT has been taken, scores are considered and roughly the top 3% of 11th grade testers, or roughly 50 thousand students, will qualify. From that number, 2/3 of students will receive a commendation letter of achievement and not proceed in the process. This is based upon the selection committee’s decision, and students have no contribution or effect during this time. The remaining 33% of students qualify as National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. For the Class of 2011, to qualify as a Semifinalist, students had to have earned a PSAT/NMSQT score of at least 201 to 222 (240 is the highest possible PSAT/NMSQT score). This is the national average, however. For Texas, the cutoff score, or lowest score to make to qualify as a Semifinalist was 215 in 2011 and 219 this year.
Once a student qualifies as a Semifinalist, he or she must complete the National Merit Scholarship Application and submit it to the NMSC in order to move on to the next round of qualifications (Finalist) and to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship. The application asks for an essay, letters of recommendation from teachers and authority figures who know the student and his or her character, as well as other scholastic details. Additionally, if the student has not yet taken the SAT and had those scores reported to the NMSC, he or she must do so in October, November, or December of his or her senior year.
Of the roughly 16,000 students who qualify as Semifinalists, about 15,000 of them will qualify as Finalists. Of those 15,000 Finalists, approximately 8,200 of them will be selected for Merit Scholarships, which can be a National Merit Scholarship, a Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship, or a College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship. Scholarships are awarded based on skills, abilities, and accomplishments as exhibited through a student’s application materials.