Practice, practice and more practice led to stellar scores on the PSAT, according to many of Upper Arlington High School's 18 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.
The seniors took the PSAT, or preliminary SAT, last year, scoring high enough to be named semifinalists in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship competition.
As semifinalists, they now have a chance to compete for approximately 8,000 scholarships worth more than $35 million.
They are: Gabriella Berland, Ian Bravender, Denise Costin, Suvaion Das, Kelsey Delehanty, Justine Frerichs, Taruni Kumar, Caroline Liu, Jacob Muratore, Duy Phan, Steven Pidcock, Eric Qian, Marielle Rodgers, Spandan Shah, Minjia Tang, Ziyue Wang, Katherine Wu and Chun Yang.
Karen Truett, district director of communication, said the seniors are among the approximately 1.5 million high school students throughout the country who entered the contest by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).
About 16,000 students qualified as semifinalists.
She said students will learn in February 2014 whether they have advanced to finalist status.
The UA seniors had some test-taking advice for other students.
Bravender suggested students use the Princeton Review SAT preparation course.
"Aside from that, I made sure to get plenty of sleep and drank a cup or two of Yerba Mate before taking the test in order to make sure my concentration was sharp," he said. "It's very easy to get distracted, bored or zoned out during a long test."
His college choices include the University of British Columbia, the University of Michigan or the University of California at Davis, to study evolutionary biology, zoology or earth science.
Costin said she worked through Barron's SAT book.
"I then took practice tests from the official SAT Study Guide," she said.
"My advice is to start very early," Costin said. "It is possible to raise your score several hundred if not a thousand points just by starting a few months in advance."
Kumar wants to become a doctor.
"I took a few practice SAT exams prior to taking the PSAT," she said. "Look at what you seem to have trouble with and learn from your mistakes."
Liu wants to pursue a health-related career.
"Students should familiarize themselves with exactly what skill area each question tests for, not just whether or not the question is a vocabulary question or passage-based question," she said.
Muratore wants to become a professional cellist. His top college choices are Baldwin Wallace, Case Western Reserve, Miami of Ohio, Kent State and Oberlin.
He read Barron's 1100 Words you Need to Know, received the SAT Question of the Week and was coached by a teacher who regularly coaches students on the PSAT and ACT.
"Don't waste time on hard questions," he said. "If you don't know the answer, try to eliminate wrong answers. If you can't make an educated guess, skip it."
Phan wants to become a neurologist. He said there is "no magic" behind achieving high marks on the test.
"Students should start preparing for the SAT as soon as possible, perhaps even as early as middle school," Phan said.
"During the summer before junior year, take a full-length practice test every week. Afterward, go through the missed questions and deeply analyze why you missed them."
Qian wants to attend the University of Chicago to study economics.
"I prepared by doing practice tests out of the official SAT book," Qian said. "My best advice would be to start studying early and to practice."
Rodgers wants a career in business.
"My advice is to take time to do practice tests to get used to the types of questions," she said.
Shah wants to study at Ohio State University to become a physicist.
"I took the PSAT as a sophomore and didn't do really well, but it gave me an idea of where I stood," he said. "It is very important to get a good sleep the night before and a good breakfast before taking the test. Finally, go out for a walk or play a sport the day before. It will be helpful in keeping you calm and collected."
Tang plans to major in biology, then attend medical school.
"I just did a lot of practice exams that I timed to make sure that I was familiar with the style of the test and its questions," she said.
Yang wants to attend OSU or Cornell University, for a double major in mathematics and computer science.
"I basically bought a lot of prep books and did them all," he said.
Wang hopes to become a general physician.
"I'd say the most important thing would be to time your practice tests and get an idea of how fast you can take a test," he said.