The College Board, the creators of the SAT, introduced a junior version of the exam for eighth graders in 2010 called the ReadiStep, according to an article in the New York Times.
The ReadiStep is a two-hour test and has questions written in the same style as the PSAT and the SAT. The test is scored 2-8 for each section, similar to the 20-80 score range on the PSAT and SAT.
Nearly 250,000 students have already taken this test in the fall of 2010, most of whom are in Texas because the state education department offered to cover the test’s $8 charge for every student as part of a larger college-readiness program.
The College Board created this test to help schools and districts better measure middle school students’ potential – not just on entrance exams – but also for college-level work.
“ReadiStep is designed to be very similar to the PSAT and SAT,” said Glenn B. Milewski, executive director of ReadiStep and the PSAT. “It is essentially a learning tool. It’s intended to help schools and districts improve their curricula and instructional practices.”
The PSAT is the qualifying exam for National Merit scholarships.
However, opponents of the test are arguing that it creates a lot of unnecessary stress to many students at such a young age.
Some believe that districts and states are becoming too obsessed with properly assessing students. They question this test’s ability to properly determine how well a student will perform on the SAT four, five years down the road.
“It’s just deceptive as can be,” said W. James Popham, professor emeritus in the graduate school of education at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It conveys the notion that your child has these strengths and weaknesses, when there’s no way to tell.”
Popham is actually in favor of early testing for students, but not the ReadiStep.
Some even believe that the College Board is trying to take advantage of over-zealous parents, hoping to get their students involved in the competitive college-application process early.
“Where does it stop?” asked Louis J. Kruger, an associate professor in the school psychology program at Northeastern University in Boston. “If you can prepare them in eighth grade, can’t you prepare them even earlier than that? There’s already considerable stress and anxiety today in public school students in regard to being assessed, and the assessment as being a gateway to college.”
The test has three, 40-minute sections in mathematics, critical reading and writing. Students are scored 2-8 on each test with 2-2.9 being a low score and 6-8 being a high score. Students also receive suggestions on how to improve their learning based on their scores.
The test is still too young to measure any of its results on students’ PSAT or SAT scores years later. However, students who take the PSAT twice scored about 120 points higher on average on the SAT’s three subsets than those who did not. Typically, students who take the PSAT multiple times are more dedicated to education than those who do not.