If teens are our future, the world is going to be fantastic, if a little derivative, based on the cornucopia of online jokes that emerged Wednesday after high school students put down their pencils on the PSAT. That’s despite the College Board’s warning against discussing what’s on the standardized test when it’s over.
For a couple years now, post-PSAT Twitter and Tumblr have been filed with inside jokes based on the weirdest questions from the test, which is offered each October. To get a sense of the scale here, 3.8 million high school students took the PSAT/NMSQT test last fall, according to the College Board, which administers the test.
Many students — the College Board said it didn’t yet have exact figures — took the PSAT this year on Wednesday, while others will sit down to fill out all those bubbles (on a different version of the test) later this month. The fall PSAT is meant as a practice for students planning on taking the SAT, but it also influences potential scholarship opportunities for students who do well on it. Those taking the test in October could be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship, for instance.
But all that has little to do with the immediate impression these exams leave on test-takers. “The most beautiful thing about the psats,” wrote Tumblr user gingerwillywonka, “is that it is a giant inside joke among thousands of sophomores and juniors in america and anyone not in that specific demographic is very confused about ‘thats seditious.'”
This actually happens a lot, as Meme Documentation has done a good job of explaining. The phenomenon of PSAT memes goes back to at least 2013, when the College Board ended up getting in on the action by sending out stickers along with test results that made references to some of the inside jokes that emerged from one particular test (something that, apparently, a lot of high school counselors weren’t too happy about).
“We appreciate that students share their experiences on social media,” College Board spokesman Zach Goldberg said. “As part of their test experience, they have acknowledged that they will not share specific test content.”
The takers of this year’s PSATs have been chatting about a few specific elements of the test, in particular Herminia, who appeared in one of the questions.
— emma (@emmartnak) October 14, 2015
Since Washington Post reporters are generally not required to take the PSAT in the fall, we don’t know exactly what happened to Herminia — only that apparently she wrote some controversial poetry that wasn’t supposed to be published but was published anyway, and that maybe the poetry was leading to political unrest, and also her dad read it in a newspaper and is mad about it? One anonymous teen tried to explain it to the Daily Dot, but the answer wasn’t super helpful.
— jayla™ (@Weyhey_itsjayla) October 14, 2015
The jokes have crossed over into other memes, like the emerging and pretty self-explanatory “Signs” Tumblr meme:
And there are even fanfics featuring a PSAT fandom pairing of Herminia with Thad, another champion meme subject from Wednesday’s test.
As the jokes began to catch on and slowly invade the non-PSAT-taker parts of the Internet, some wondered whether the long arm of the law (or at least, the College Board) might soon catch up with them:
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