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Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The 2023 PSAT National Merit Semifinalists are Announced, New Standardized Testing Updates

Eight Woodbridge High students were awarded the prestigious National Merit semifinalist designation following the PSAT examination taken in October 2022
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Carrington
Woodbridge High’s eight National Merit Semifinalists—Natalie Miller, Senna Yamamoto, Abigail Shih, Minho Beak, Katherine Hua, Andrei Ignatov, Catherine Tsaowimonsiri (left to right), and Ava Nishizaka (not pictured)—celebrate their distinguished academic achievement with Principal Christopher Krebs.

Every year, roughly 3.5 million high school juniors across the United States take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), an important indication of college readiness and academic scholarship.

This year, eight Woodbridge High students—Minho Beak, Katherine Hua, Andrei Ignatov, Natalie Miller, Ava Nishizaka, Abigail Shih, Catherine Tsaowimonsiri and Senna Yamamoto—were declared National Merit semifinalists. These students scored in the top 1% of test takers in the nation, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

The students that are designated National Merit Semifinalists are in the top 1% of the 1.3 million high school juniors that took the exam. The numbers alone make it significant and go beyond earning an A in an Advanced Placement class or having a strong grade point average… There are not a lot of people that are able to demonstrate their ability at that significant of a level.

— Jennifer Carrington

In order to earn the National Merit semifinalist distinction, students in the state of California needed to meet the state’s necessary score threshold of 221 or higher defined by the Selection Index (SI), which amounted to about 16,000 students nationally. The SI measures aptitude in the core subjects of reading, writing and mathematics. Students who scored in the top 3-4% and scored a SI between 207 and 220 were declared Commended Scholars.

Ignatov and Hua both attested to the amount of test preparation they had committed to over the course of many months and how important the award meant to them.

“Being declared a National Merit semifinalist was a huge honor because it carries that national prestige,” Hua said. “I would also say it is important to me because I studied a lot for standardized tests. For example, I spent two summers and probably longer studying for it. It was a nice way to see my efforts finally paying off.”

While the National Merit distinction continues to hold an important value for students and is still seen as a reputable indication of high academic standing, the climate surrounding standardized testing remains in flux in the post-Covid-19 world of college admissions.

In the past few years, testing policies have demonstrably changed and there continues to be a decreasing emphasis on standardized testing. In 2019, 55% of public and private universities required applicants to take either the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT), while in 2023, only 5.5% of colleges are requiring applicants to take either examination, according to the Common Application.

Woodbridge High lead counselor Jennifer Carrington notes that while the usage of standardized testing in college admissions has shifted over the years, it is not going away anytime soon.

“[Standardized testing] can still be a differentiating factor, certainly to demonstrate a certain aspect of students’ abilities,” Carrington said. “It also gives students an opportunity to assess how their score ranks in the applicant pool and this can help frame some of those college-going decisions.”

For students preparing to take the 2023 PSAT exam in October this year, Ignatov suggests planning ahead and investing time into diligent and structured practice.

“For me, I just worked on a lot of practice tests,” Ignatov said. “I really recommend the SAT courses on Khan Academy. They break down things by category and by skill. It was really helpful and I saw a lot of improvement with that.”

The next step in the NMSC competition is the finalist designation and, in which students are required to meet additional eligibility criteria.

According to the NMSC, “a semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® or ACT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.”

About 95% of the NMSC semifinalists are expected to attain the Finalist standing and approximately 50% of NMSC finalists are expected to be declared National Merit Scholars and winners of the $2,500 cash prize.

To view a full list of Orange County’s PSAT National Merit Semifinalists, please click here.

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About the Contributor
Brandon Liu
Brandon Liu, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hi Warriors! I'm Brandon and this will be my fourth and final year in journalism. I am so honored to lead our magazine this year and carry out our vision of a publication that breaks down the latest on-campus news to you, in a way that feels fresh, relevant, and engaging. Our goal is to share the stories that make us who we are—the Warrior family—and to value your input as readers. Journalism is so important in our everyday lives, so I hope the Golden Arrow stories can give you some insight into our lives within and also beyond school walls. Outside of journalism, you can find me watching the latest episode of Survivor, listening to Coldplay on loop, or hanging out with friends at the local boba tea shop. I know this year will be a good one, so I'm so excited to be a part of it!