On October 16, 2019, sophomores and juniors across the nation took the PSAT/NMSQT exam. The PSAT is a standardized test administered by the College Board and cosponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Should a student perform well on this exam, he or she will be eligible to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Stemming from the increased digitization of our society is a new culture embraced by teens across the nation. This is referred to as “the meme culture of standardized tests,” which first dates back to 2014 when users on the sub reddit, r/teenagers, decided to “illegally discuss the PSAT” (WIRED). “Illegally discussing information” refers to making jokes or creating relatable content about the questions and concepts that the students were tested on. For example, when scrolling through the sub reddit, r/psat, users will find many references to ambiverts, mathematical constants, or Nao’s diary. Anybody who took the PSAT would laugh in agreement, while those who didn’t would be scratching their heads wondering what the posts were talking about.
With the growing popularity of meme culture around standardized tests, the intents of teenagers walking into these exams have changed drastically over the years. While there are still the students who take the exam with their eyes set on the National Merit Scholarship, there are others who try to embrace the culture and take the exam with the intention of making these memes, putting the cancellation of their scores at risk. Standardized tests and social media have unknowingly brought forth this new era of teenagers that create relatable content for peers to enjoy. Additionally, many students actually take these tests to understand the memes as well.
When asked, “What was your goal walking into the PSAT?”, junior at Fairmont Preparatory Academy, Jennifer Cresap, responded that she took the test with not only the intent to receive the National Merit Scholarship, but to enjoy the memes that follow the exam as well.
In light of this new era of students, the College Board had begun to “crack down” on the making of these memes. Ironically, the College Board has made memes of their own to advise students against making memes about the test, as it puts out the potential risk of disclosing information about the exam.
by Ryan Yi