On Wednesday October 14, 2015, the first floor hallway was unusually silent. The cause of this impossible anomaly was made clear by the signs posted on doorways everywhere across the country: TESTING IN PROGRESS. 75 Sophomores and 88 Juniors spent from 8am to 12:25 pm on Wednesday testing, officially becoming the first wave of students to complete the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT, which has been changed in a few major ways since last year.
This year’s test is to be completed in two hours and forty-five minutes, compared to two hours and ten minutes for the old test. The new standardized testing emphasized “evidence-based reading and writing”, providing questions with more everyday relevance than previous years. This meant less of a focus on vocabulary and a shift towards meaning and inference when reading. There is also a significant change in the way the test is scored: getting a question wrong no longer deducts points, encouraging guessing.
Another interesting feature of the redesigned SAT is Khan Academy’s free study program. In the past, students got a leg up on the test by paying for expensive and time-consuming study programs which many were unaffordable for many. To level the playing field, The College Board (creators of the SAT) partnered with Khan Academy to provide a free online study program for everyone, putting student’s success in their hands instead of their wallets.
Not all students were excited about the opportunity to participate in a nationwide phenomenon. “They were terrible!” commented Junior Alexander Girouard, a sentiment shared by many. The stress-inducing time constraint made many test takers nervous, so teachers decided to give kids a release during the full day Wednesday through various October-themed activities. These included a scary movie, painting Halloween pumpkins, and outdoor games.
What got students excited, surprisingly, was talking about the test’s oddities afterwards on social media. While the PSAT booklet specifically stated (multiple times) the importance of keeping the test’s content a secret until scores were evaluated, the advent of online posting allowed kids to go wild, creating new memes about the test.
Colleges, high schools, and students alike will all take a long time to get used to these groundbreaking changes made to the standardized testing which has been a rite of passage into college life since 1901.