Semifinalist Secrets

By Aparna Shibu and Trisha George


After months of waiting, four New Hyde Park Memorial High School students — Daniel Kim, Laurence Lai, Christopher Liu and Emma Ouyang — were recognized as semifinalists in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program. In this competition, students participate by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Annually, around 16,000 students qualify as semifinalists due to their scores on the exam.


Q. Can you share with us some personal tips and tricks on how to study efficiently for the PSAT/NMSQT?

Laurence Lai: Practice, practice, practice. I did the SAT before my PSAT, and the most important thing about preparation for the tests is the amount of practice tests you take. On Khan Academy, the College Board offers 10 free practice SAT exams. Beyond that, there are also PDF copies of old SAT tests online. I also took a summer prep course, TestTakers, but I gained a lot of insight on the exam by just doing old tests. You should also narrow down the topics you're struggling on, too, so you don't waste time going over redundant questions.


Source from Christopher Liu

Laurence Lai recommends the use of the 10 Practice Tests available on Khan Academy.


Q. How did you feel before taking the exam? After? Why?

Emma Ouyang: I wasn’t extremely stressed about the exam, but I was slightly anxious because I wanted to do well. Afterwards, I felt relieved, as one usually does after taking a test. Although I hadn’t gone into the PSAT with high expectations, finishing a test always gives me a sense of relief.


Q. How long did you study for on average before the test in one sitting? Did you study the day before the test? What kind of study environment helps you study well?

Christopher Liu: I spent about one to two hours on weekdays doing Khan Academy SAT practice and a few hours each weekend. I studied for about a month before taking the SAT, but I didn’t study much for the PSAT as I took it around the time I took the SAT. I studied in my room which wasn’t the best environment because I get distracted easily. I would recommend a library, but I tried to minimize the time I spent indoors in places other than home during the pandemic.


Q. If you could wrap up your PSAT experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Daniel Kim: If I could wrap up my PSAT experience in one word it would be relief in knowing I got through it.


Q. What keeps you motivated?

LL: This is bad but seeing high numbers motivates me. My parents put a lot of pressure on me to do well on tests, too. Don't do this because it's going to destroy your mental health. Mental health over grades, always.


EO: My family’s expectations and my desire to meet them keep me motivated.


CL: I find that I have to force myself to start working a lot of the time before I really feel motivated to work on something, but once I get in the flow of things and have a set routine, it’s a lot easier to stay consistent and on task.


DK: I didn’t feel too nervous before the test because I’d already taken the SAT, but I still wanted to do well since I knew I could get a scholarship.


Source by Anna Detke

The Semifinalists — Emma Ouyang, Laurence Lai, Christopher Liu and Daniel Kim — stand together in the library to commemorate their accomplishment.


“At New Hyde Park, having just one student as a part of the National Merit [Semifinalists] demonstrates that you have really talented individuals in your school, and when you have four, it means you have even more!” said NHP principal Dr. Faccio.


Congratulations to the PSAT/NMSQT 2022 semifinalists.