The memes flourish despite the College Board’s stern warning against discussing the test contents in public. The Internet wins over fear of retribution: “PSAT” has reliably trended on Twitter for most of the day since late morning — just after the first students wrapped up testing — with more than 350,000 mentions by about 4 p.m.
It’s not the content of the PSAT memes themselves that make them so good — although many of them are good. It’s that, by the nature of their sourcing, it’s very difficult for them to be co-opted and corrupted. The jokes only make sense to other people who took the test, too. So while we might understand and appreciate the the spirit of what’s happening here, old people and brands can’t fully participate in them.
To prove the purity this year’s crop of PSAT memes, I, an old person, will try to explain some of the best ones to a broader audience. I am ultimately going to fail.
The meme: Calculators on the English portion of the PSAT
The explanation: This one is easy, I think! The PSAT must have contained some unnecessary instructions that banned calculators from the English portion of the exam, where one presumably wouldn’t need calculators anyway. Man, those PSATs, am I right?
The meme: Don’t joke about the PSAT online
The explanation: Those pesky teens! The College Board warned you explicitly against making jokes on the Internet about the PSAT questions, but here you are making those jokes. Some are going meta, and making jokes about the jokes.
The meme: DAB
The explanation: One of the math questions asked students to answer a question about an angle labeled DAB, and the teens all joked about “dabbing” during the test, which they almost certainly did not do in real life.
The meme: Don Juan Ribero/photography
The explanation: I’m going to be honest here, it took me too long to realize that “photography lessons” jokes and Don Juan Ribero jokes were referring to the same thing. It appears that the teens are really memeing the heck out of a depressing passage about rejection from a novel titled “Portrait in Sepia.”
The meme: Stick figure and something about space?
The explanation: Kids are memeing the stickman pattern of galaxy distribution, which was presumably the subject of one of the questions.
The meme: Artisan bagels
The explanation: [begins to sweat] I don’t . . . was there a question about what makes something an “artisan” bagel as opposed to a “bad” bagel?
The meme: Toadfish and dolphins
The explanation: So in the natural world, dolphins eat toadfish. There’s scientific research suggesting that toadfish can hear low frequency “pops” from dolphins, and adjust their mating calls accordingly to avoid being found and eaten. Man, it would be so weird to be a scientist and suddenly see your work memed for a day by a ton of teens because the PSAT used it in a question.
The meme: 8 cents per word
The explanation: The teens had a question about life as an underpaid freelance journalist?
The meme: The subway announcer’s voice
The explanation: ASMR? I give up.