The Paly Voice

Upcoming PSAT, tips and information for the class of 2019

Samantha McBride

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Palo Alto High School College Advisor Sandra Cernobori works at her desk in the College and Career center, answering questions regarding standardized testing.

Palo Alto High School College Advisor Sandra Cernobori of the College and Career center gives advice to students’ concerns of anything college-related. Through the school year and especially in the months right before the PSAT, Cernobori answers many questions regarding the newly redesigned SAT. Photo: The Paly Voice

Nearing the end of the first quarter at Palo Alto High School, the Class of 2019 will start their standardized testing journey as they take their first official Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test on Wednesday morning.

While the PSAT does not directly affect college applications, it determines a student’s qualifications for a merit scholarship. Most merit scholarships reward academic talent, and some consider financial need.

The PSAT was recently updated in 2016 with all-new time limits, sections and specific problems. The Class of 2019 will be the third class that takes the new PSAT.

Unlike the class of 2017, students in the Class of 2019 have the chance to purchase a PSAT book and study the practice tests because the newly redesigned PSAT now has third-party published practice guides. Books can be purchased at any bookstore or online. The PSAT book consists of multiple practice tests and an answer key explaining the answers for each problem.

With Paly’s ever-changing infrastructure, such as the library construction, concerns about the location of the test have been raised.

However, administration says that the PSAT will not be affected whatsoever.

Testing centers will expand to more classrooms and students should not expect any sudden changes. According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, there are enough classes for all juniors to take their PSAT.

Students will find their PSAT testing room and their proctor—who are Paly teachers—the morning of the test. Rooms will be posted on the wall outside the Student Center.

Here are some things to know about for the layout and time limit of the test.

  • The test is 2 hours and 45 minutes.
  • Scores range from 320-1520.
  • Reading Section: 60 minutes to complete 5 passages.
  • Writing and Language Section: 35 minutes to complete 4 passages.
  • Math section is split up into two sections: grid in and multiple choice.  70 minutes for both sections combined (calculator and non-calculator sections).
  • Guess!: there is no penalty for blank answers.

For many juniors, this may be the first proctored Scholastic Aptitude Test of their careers. Juniors should take advantage of this test and learn their individual test taking strategies and implement them for the SAT.

According to collegeboard.com, here are some important preparation and test taking skills. 


Many students spend a couple months preparing for the PSAT, making them very familiar with the content and time pressure.

“Practice tests are the best way to study,” senior Aashai Avadhani said. “Read the questions, take your time and answer to the best of your ability.”

Senior Adeline Zhou emphasized that focusing on your weaknesses is the best.

“Try to do the practice tests and go about your ability,” Zhou said. “If you see that you are lacking in one section, maybe try and either redo it or go online and search up previous PSAT tests.”

The College and Career center will be available throughout this week and next for students with any concerns about the test.

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