PSAT 2021: An Unconventional Exam Day Atmosphere

Rachel Lichtenwalner, Managing Editor

Students grudgingly drag themselves through the halls, equipped with a drawstring bag of pencils, a calculator, a water bottle and a snack. Everyone is comfortably and carelessly dressed in sweatpants or pajama bottoms. The only motivation is being home by 1 p.m. 

Just the usual annual Practice SAT (PSAT) day. 

However, this year’s PSAT looks much different. 

Principal Ashley Agans said administration has noticed a significant decline in the number of students who signed up to take the exam this year compared to previous years. Only 585 students registered to complete the test on Tuesday 

When Agans worked at Johns Creek High School as the testing coordinator, she said that almost the entire student population took the PSAT, even if they “Christmas-treed it” and didn’t care. 

Now, appeal in the exam has reduced, especially among freshmen and juniors. It seems like sophomores are the most interested in the PSAT this year, said assistant administrator Tonekia Phairr. 

Agans is puzzled why not as many juniors will take the PSAT because of a shot at a National Merit Scholarship and other scholarship offerings. She assumes that “it’s a product of the environment we’re in,” she said. 

“With everything that’s happened with COVID, people are just staying extra careful and precautious,” said Phairr. 

Phairr added that it is likely the PSAT is currently unpopular among juniors because some colleges waived the SAT, some juniors’ see a trend in their past PSAT scores and can predict where there skills are, or juniors are already focused on preparing for the SAT and ACT.  

Phairr also said that in a normal school year, about 95% of freshmen come in to complete the PSAT. Now, that percentage is much lower. The reason, she said, may have to do with the fact that freshmen already took an online PSAT with Applerouth Tutoring Services last semester. 

Low turnout for the exam, nevertheless, comes with an advantage: more opportunities for social distancing. 

Agans said she hopes that there will be a smaller teacher-to-student ratio per classroom; No more than 15 to a room would be preferable, she said. 

She is also expecting students to flake out at the last second or to come in to take the test who didn’t register. She is keeping these conditions in mind when creating a social distancing plan, as well. 

Other coronavirus safety measures include mandating that students bring their own pencils and calculators to the exam. Whereas in previous years, if students forgot these items, teachers would lend them for the time being. This will not be the case on Tuesday. 

Masks, too, will be compulsory. 

Although seniors have the day off, they will still be expected to complete their asynchronous classwork just like everyone else, said Agans. She said it is also a good day to catch up on incomplete work. 

Finally, when all school priorities are taken care of, “find a nice book and curl up for the afternoon,” said Agans. 

Assistant Principal Cindy Weatherford advised seniors to “social distance, stay at home, not go to parties, sleep in, rest up and come ready to work the next day of school.”