Where Tatler shares its humor
The PSAT can lead to National Merit scholarships for college tuition, but more importantly, quality memes on test day.
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the freshman, sophomore and junior classes sharpened their No. 2 pencils and charged their calculators to take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). After the test, students looked forward to the PSAT memes posted on social media that mocked test questions and parodied the test-taking experience.
Juniors take the PSAT in October to qualify for National Merit scholarships. Top-scoring individuals are able to receive titles like “Commended,” “Semifinalist” or “Finalist,” which can boost merit scholarships at colleges and universities. These recognitions are awarded based on a “Selection Number Index” that compares scores on a curve within each state.
Approximately 3.5 million students take the PSAT each year; however, only a small fraction are considered for National Merit. The top 50,000 students are recognized as “Commended,” while 16,000 students are considered “Semifinalists” who must complete an application, reach a qualifying SAT or ACT score and meet specific academic requirements in order to become a “Finalist.”
This past year, the juniors have worked hard to clock in hours of test prep. According to Mr. McCalla, Chair of the Upper School Math Department, “The College Board did a study that if you put in 20 hours of prep for the PSAT, your score goes up by 110 points.” He explained that St. Mary’s juniors will have accumulated at least 30-40 hours of practice including mock tests, in-class work and mandatory ALAPP work.”
The freshmen classes the took PSAT 8/9, which is a standardized test similar to the PSAT/NMSQT format with some grade-appropriate modifications. For many, this served as the first exposure to high school standardized testing and was relatively stress-free because it served as a learning experience.
Leah Balkaran (9), noticed a relaxed atmosphere during her test, “Our teachers were telling us to not stress about it and not to study… that it was a practice and just a baseline so I wasn’t that worried about it.”
According to Meghan Aslin (10), the memes were “the highlight” of her testing day, and she claims that they “did not disappoint.” She believes that they were “a good sacrifice from the meme-makers.” Aslin emphasized, “you have to do what you have to do to give the people what they want.”
McCalla explains this effect, “The most common PSAT meme [of the math section] this year … was about constants. Sometimes the wording and vocabulary that they use in the PSAT can be troublesome for students. Sometimes it’s not even the math, it’s the wording they use. So students need to be prepared to use math vocabulary. In our math classrooms we need to talk more math so we’re ready for the PSAT.”
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