8th graders taking a pre-PSAT?

The Los Angels Times is reporting that the College Board, those people who give you the PSAT and SAT exams, have come up with a new exam for 8th graders.  To be fair, I am not a huge fan of standardized tests to begin with although I understand their use in limited circumstances. But the last thing students need to worry about is yet another standardized test in the lead up to college.

The argument in favor of the test is that it will help identify students who might be high achievers that should take honors course and AP courses in high school. In my opinion, this is a ridiculous argument.  Students should be challenged in high school whatever their academic strength. A good student will not be identified by one test given in 8th grade.  A good student is one who has a natural ability or who works hard to achieve.  Some good students do well on standardized tests and others do not do as well. Are we to follow the results of the 8th grade test to determine that a poor test taker not take advanced courses in high school?  Or what about the student who does well at standardized tests but has no motivation to do well in his classes? How will he view his high school classes differently just because he scored well on this test.

I encourage students to have some basic background on the PSAT before taking the exam junior year because there is a potential benefit to doing well on the PSAT; you may become a National Merit Scholar. So taking a practice PSAT as a sophomore makes sense. But I discourage students from focusing too much on standardized tests whether they be the PSAT, the SAT or the ACT. Yes, you need to understand the exam, and yes taking practice tests can be beneficial. Even taking a prep course can be helpful for some students. But too much focus on standardized testing often works to the detriment of the student by leaving less time for class work or extra curricular activities.

A new test in the 8th grade provides only one benefit. And that benefit is more money for the College Board who has been losing market share as a result of the increased usage of the ACT and the increase in the number of test optional colleges. At this point, most students in this country are taking so many standardized tests that they have lost much of the time to learn such subjects as math, English, history, or foreign languages.   That is a shame.

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  1. says

    Perhaps it’s time to encourage students and schools to boycott the test? It would be great to see a movement dedicated to reversing this trend toward early testing?

  2. Todd Johnson says


    I agree that parents and students should be looking to find the right college. However, adding on another layer of standardized tests is not the way to go, particularly when the evidence that such tests provide any real information is limited.

    I do agree with you that many parents and students are worried about getting into the right college but I try to take a different approach. The search for the right college should be an enjoyable time for the student and family. The worry tends to come for many families because they focus on a limited number of “name” colleges most of which are highly selective. If one of the highly selective colleges is a good fit for your child, the go for it. But also make sure that you have some other colleges on the list that are more of a sure thing for admissions. There are a number of great colleges out there where admissions is much easier than at the highly selective colleges. And many of those colleges offer a great education.

  3. Leila says

    In my opinion, these standardized tests are just a way for teachers to make extra money through private coaching. In foreign countries especially, these teachers make huge profits by taking large groups of students and literally coaching them to pass the exams. This defeats the whole purpose of the exam.

  4. Todd Johnson says


    While this may happen to some extent the real people making money off this additional testing is the College Board who brought out the test. There really is no purpose for this exam in the first place that I can see other than generating more money for the College Board.

  5. says

    As a test prep provider, I agree fully with Todd. No one in the industry wanted this test and generally it has been perceived as a huge waste of resources and time.

    It will, however, generate millions for College Board.


  1. […] The New York Times is reporting that the College Board is putting off the launch of the 8th grade test it had planned for this fall.  This test, called the ReadiStep, was criticized by many, including me, as an attempt the start the college admissions process into the 8th grade. […]

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