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Let’s Make the PSAT Optional
Annabel Nottebohm '17 Associate Editor
November 16, 2016

Each fall, Deerfield sophomores and juniors are required to take the PSAT—a standardized test that doubles as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The test is distributed nationwide as both a practice for the more formal SAT as well as a tool to determine students’ eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship. Despite these benefits, the PSAT is not useful to all students and should not be a requirement at Deerfield.

PSATAt our school, like many boarding schools in the United States, there are many international students. Though the National Merit Scholarship awards are available only to American citizens, Deerfield makes no exceptions. In this case, one of the largest appeals of the test does not apply to a substantial group of students. Additionally, many students prefer the ACT rather than SAT when taking standardized tests for the college process. For this reason, the results of the PSAT may not be helpful as these cannot be applied to the ACT. While the PSAT may be helpful to a limited number of students, it certainly should not be required of all students.

Moreover, as the PSAT requirement applies to sophomores as well, it can create premature stress for students who are  not ready to begin preparation for standardized testing. Having to start so early, students may feel that standardized testing is extremely important even though it is only supplemental.

While students try to juggle their busy lives at Deerfield, an unnecessary test should not place an additional burden on students and take away an entire morning.

Instead of taking the PSAT, students should use this time to explore their interests at school, focus on more immediate academic responsibilities, or simply catch up on sleep. As a school, Deerfield needs to consider that all students have different needs and a required PSAT does not satisfy them all.