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Gearing up for the SAT

September 13, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

Next month, high school sophomores and juniors across the Tri-State area will have an opportunity to sharpen their academic skills in preparation for the SAT college entrance examination.

Jack Guest, a counselor at North Hagerstown High School, said announcements for the Preliminary SAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, also known as the PSAT, already have gone out to Washington County students.

"The test focuses on math and verbal skills, and there is also a writing skills portion as well," Guest said.

North High senior Amy Whalen, 17, said last year's PSAT helped jump-start her performance in math before she took the SAT exam.

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"I scored low in math, and the PSAT helped me understand what to expect on the SAT's format," Whalen said.

In the months following the PSAT, Whalen said she used study guides to prepare for the SAT. She advises fellow students against winging it on the SAT.

"It should be taken very seriously," she said.

"It really determines your future and your life in years to come," North High senior Danielle Collier said.

Washington County students will take the PSAT on Oct. 13 and the Washington County Board of Education will pay the $11 fee for each sophomore and junior who takes the exam, Guest said. Also, the College Board, the agency that developed the test, allows fee waivers for juniors from low-income families who cannot afford the test fee.

According to the PSAT manual, the test measures critical reading, problem-solving math and writing skills.

The PSAT is cosponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corp. The PSAT is used to screen students who might qualify for National Merit and other scholarships, Guest said.

Students at Chambersburg (Pa.) Area High School will take the PSAT on Oct. 16. School counselor Janet Martin encourages all students to take the exam, even if they don't have immediate plans to attend college.

Martin said it is not unusual for former graduates to return for the test up to three years after graduation.

"It's so much harder because they haven't just taken modern algebra, geometry and courses like that," Martin said.

Last year, Martin said 10 students from Chambersburg Area High School received academic scholarships based on their test scores. Of those, four were National Merit Scholarship finalists.

Students in Berkeley and Morgan counties in West Virginia will take the PSAT on Oct. 13.

Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) High School counselor Linda McGraw said West Virginia students will have to pay $12 for the PSAT, which isn't covered by the state. However, she said West Virginia does pay for a test that prepares students for the ACT college assessment test. Like the PSAT, students also receive their test results.

"They can see the questions they missed and if they didn't understand the concept, they can answer the question and figure it out," McGraw said.

School administrators said this year's PSAT also will prepare students for the new SAT, which will be given to students in the spring. The new SAT will include a new writing section with multiple-choice questions and an essay, school officials said.

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