The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


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OP-ED: A Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT

Student participating in the PSAT. Photo courtesy of College Board.

The impending epidemic of “junioritis” has already infected CdM’s Class of ‘25 as the annual PSAT/NMSQT rounds the corner. The NMSQT, the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, offers top-scorers generous opportunities for college, defined by College Board as “an academic competition for recognition and scholarships.” The stages are as follows: First, students must take the NMSQT, presented in the form of the beloved (sarcasm intended) PSAT. Top-scorers proceed to the semi-finals, about 90 percent of whom are eventually declared National Merit Scholarship finalists. It is important for students to note that the cutoff score in order to be eligible for semi-finals varies by state. CdM’s students may be disappointed to hear that California’s cutoff score is among the most competitive. Despite this hurtle, CdM’s Class of ‘24 boasts five semi-finalists.

CdM’s very own Senior Kaitlyn Nguyen is among the five semi-finalists from last year. She gives advice to this year’s juniors, encouraging students to use their resources to their full advantage. She lists the “study book…they give you before the PSAT” and “Khan Academy” as good resources for extra practice. “[However,] I think the biggest help was [that] I was already studying for the SAT [before taking the NMSQT],” she says. “That really helped me because I feel like the SAT was harder.” Nguyen would applaud Junior Camille Tauro’s preparations. Tauro expresses similar adoration for Khan Academy, claiming that “[she’s] probably done 300 [practice] problems” on Khan Academy.

In addition to familiarizing oneself with the test’s content, Nguyen emphasizes a mindset shift, urging future test-takers to instead see the NMSQT simply as “a placement to see where you are.” She says, “I think [you should] look at it…as a win-win situation. It’s not something to stress over. If you miraculously do well, and you [qualify] for these scholarships, that’s a great thing, but if you don’t do well, then it’s no big deal.”

Despite Nguyen’s success and Tauro’s preparations, neither are “big fan[s] of standardized testing.” Tauro thinks the SAT is “such a limited scope.” Nguyen reaffirms this notion, claiming that a good score isn’t a sound “indicator of IQ.” While the National Merit Scholarship is coveted for its prestige and financial incentive, it is most definitely not necessary in order to be successful. Within a larger context, let this be a lesson that there is no right path to success because life is anything but linear.


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