The Memes of the PSAT
Author Amelia Dilworth
On October 11, 2017, students across the country gathered to take the Preliminary SAT, commonly referred to as the PSAT. Only hours later, high school students began infiltrating social media such as Twitter with images related to the test material, creating a series of posts incomprehensible to everyone except their fellow test takers. For many students, the PSAT memes may be the highlight of the experience — yet the memes harbor more harm than an innocent inside joke. According to an article published by NPR earlier this year, many AP Literature test takers tweeted about characters named “Mr. Pickle” and “Godfrey Gauntlet.” With only light research, one could use these two clues to unearth Tobias Smollett's short story, “The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle.”
Even the College Board took to Twitter on Wednesday to post a meme of its own. “DO NOT SHARE TEST QUESTIONS ONLINE,” the organization captions a photograph of a shouting Meryl Streep, a meme that emerged in May of 2017.
Unfortunately, sensitive information has already been revealed. Harry Klee emerged from his obscurity as a horticulturist at the University of Florida to become an internet celebrity, hinting at his involvement in Wednesday’s test. The PSAT and SAT do not reuse questions, so revealing test content is not dealt with as harshly as with the AP exams, which do reuse questions and cancel scores for anyone found to be discussing the material online before the release date.
The prevalence of PSAT memes catalyzes a movement colleges have already begun. Some colleges do not require applicants to submit their standardized testing scores because of the growing belief that a student’s achievement and performance cannot be summed up in a simple number. If the PSAT devolves into an internet joke that fails to demonstrate academic achievement, the College Board may eventually eradicate it in favor of other tests. Although no one foresees such an extreme response in the near future, proposing a more viable alternative proves difficult.
Although the College Board does not seem to consider memes as criminal as some teenagers assume — as demonstrated in yet another meme — it does condemn the sharing of test content, which the proctor announces to every test taker. Until the College Board puts more consequences in place, however, teens will continue to flood the internet with bizarre memes, and their parents will be left wondering about shrimpy ex-husbands and heirloom tomatoes.