Written by Illustrated News Staff firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 08 November 2013 00:00
Every October juniors and sophomores take the PSAT/NMSQT standardized test to gauge their actual SAT scores might be. Juniors who perform exceptionally well on the exam are chosen to be National Merit Semi-finalists; the minimum score required to achieve national merit last year for New York was 219 out of 240. Seven students from Herricks were awarded with this honor: Ankoor Talwar, William Chung, Justin Hsuan, Rifath Rashid, Amen Wiqas, Esther Chen, and Bernadette Haig.
The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is administered by The College Board in conjunction with the National Merit Scholarship corporation. Sections of the test mirror the SAT itself- two critical reading sections, two math sections, and one writing section.
Every year 1.5 million juniors take the NMSQT exam. Approximately 55,000 of these students across the country receive high scores. More than 34,000 students, almost two thirds of the high scorers, receive the commended student title;
however, only 16,000 are rewarded with the distinction of being National Merit Semi-finalists.
The partition of the ranges of scores to receive commended student and semi-finalist is based on each state’s spectrum of scores- so the highest scoring entrants from each state are qualified. New York is known for having the most competitive scores, which means obtaining National Merit Semi-finalist status is extremely difficult in this state. As semi-finalists, students get their names sent across the country to colleges by the NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation).
So what exactly helped these students perform well on the exam? “It is really all about preparation.” Ankoor said. “If you want to compete for a Semi-finalist position, you have to understand all the material on the test.”
Rifath added that technique was key for success. For him, writing (section composed of grammar rules) and math were straight forward, but he identified critical reading (section where students are asked to read passages and answer questions) as the “difficult section for most test takers.”
His technique for dealing with the critical reading section was to talk to himself during the test and to act like a judge by defending his answer before choosing them.
Because of their test taking acumen, these semi-finalists must now submit a lengthy application to be considered finalists for the scholarship. As part of the application, they first must report an SAT score that mirrors or closely relates to their PSAT score. Second, they are required to write an essay (on a topic of the applicant’s choice). Lastly, teacher recommendations, proof of consistently high academic grades and participation in extracurricular activities must be sent in.
The applications are all reviewed by NMSC selectors. Semi-finalists are then notified in February by mail if they have been selected as finalists. Generally, 90 percent of semi-finalists meet the requirements to become finalists (15,000 students), and are thereby considered for Merit Scholarship awards. In the end, 8,000 students are chosen for their high academic achievement, their propensity to cultivate knowledge, and their likelihood of success in the future. Finalist rewards sum up to a total of $35 million and will be awarded this coming spring.
There are three different awards a finalist can receive. Every single finalist will have the opportunity to compete for a $2,500 scholarship that is distributed to 2,500 students across the country. Corporations also participate by rewarding students with scholarships (some 1,000 rewards will be sponsored by about 240 businesses). Finally, approximately 200 colleges will sponsor 4,500 scholarships for prospective students planning on attend their respective schools.