Ardmore High School will take the PSAT today. While the ACT and SAT tests are what determine college admission, the PSAT determines college scholarships.
The Ardmoreite has recently talked about the ACT test, also known as the most common standardized test for college admission in the state of Oklahoma. It can be taken multiple times by seniors, juniors and sophomores, with the best scores being used. The PSAT is different.
It’s made up of critical reading, math and writing scores, taken once as a sophomore for practice and once as a junior as part of a scholarship competition. The ACT/SAT is mandatory to get into college, but the PSAT is a voluntary stepping-stone.
Students take the PSAT for two hours and 10 minutes. Each section can score up to 80 points, adding up to a possible 240 composite score. The PSAT doesn’t include upper level math such as Algebra II like the SAT does, or an essay section and is mostly multiple choice.
“The PSAT provides entry into the National Merit Scholarship program as well as other scholarship programs,” Ardmore High School counselor, Penny Tibbs explained.  “It also connects students with the College Board’s Student Search Service, which helps introduce students to higher education and more opportunities.  Taking the PSAT also gives students access to free personalized SAT practice and increases AP participation.”  
The cost is $15.00, but some students qualify for a fee waiver.  
In 2011, Authur Dixon, an AHS graduate, was named a National Merit Scholar.
The PSAT is taken by school, rather than by individual. Around 1.5 million juniors will take the test. The first step is to become a Commended Student, which is decided by who has the highest scores. The top 50,000 or so achieve the title and receive a letter congratulating them on their “outstanding academic promise.”
Next, the students themselves are looked at through grades and academic standing. Around 16,000 advance onto being a Semifinalist by getting a letter in the mail. The rest are no longer in the running for National Merit Scholarships, but the title, Commended, carries weight with other scholarship opportunities and looks good on a college application.
Next, semifinalists are watched as they continue their high school careers. To become a finalist, the student must be a U.S. citizen, a senior in high school, be planning on attending a college full-time in the Fall after graduation, have their principal’s consent and backing, have high academic performance in all courses taken, take the SAT with scores on the level of the candidates original PSAT scores and be in current good academic standing.
Letters are then sent in the mail to announce to around 7,400 seniors that they are finalists and have won a merit scholarship. The first type is a National Merit Scholarship, which are $2,500 one-time payments regardless of finances, college choice or degree plans.
Second are the corporate sponsored Merit Scholarships, which are determined by which candidates sponsors like and can be given once or over four years.
Finally, there are the college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards where the schools themselves give money to the student if that student had applied to their school, been accepted and filled out the form saying that college was their first choice. These go for all four years of study.
The PSAT is a chance at a National Merit Scholarship. Even if a student doesn’t achieve the status of a finalist, a letter back of achievement carries weight with colleges and independent corporations. It could mean scholarship money from another source or it could be the one thing that separates one student from another when deciding college admittance.