Truly showing that anything can be meme-ified

by Sophie Yang and Katie Zhao, ’19

As our modern social media culture develops, not even dry, humorless standardized testing is immune to the onslaught of memes. Shrimps and husbands as well as tomatoes and messy rooms were thrust into the spotlight thanks to the 2017 PSAT.

In recent years, standardized testing culture has merged with modern social media, causing students to bond over humor, memes and shared experience after taking tests such as the PSAT and AP Exams.

After the stress of PSAT testing, students often relax by laughing together at relatable content from the test. Many social sites like Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr are host to these memes. Other news outlets are even getting in on the trend, with columns published on The Washington Post and People attempting to explain the phenomenon.

This trend is very visible in Google search trends, which records the frequency that terms are searched for. Google’s data reveals that — as one might expect — the search “PSAT” peaks dramatically twice each year: once in October when the test is administered and once a few months later when the results become available.

PSAT searches for the past five years. Data and graph courtesy Google Trends.

By tracking searches of #psat, psat twitter and psat meme, it’s clear that the standardized testing meme is only becoming more popular. Psat twitter’s October peak was 7.5 higher in 2015 than in 2012, and #psat‘s search went from negligible to almost double psat twitter’s searches.

This year, #psat, psat twitter and psat meme peaked for more than 24 hours.

AP Exam memes follow a remarkably similar trend, with searches like #apbio and #apwh becoming more popular with every passing year.

What Do We Meme When We Meme?

As PSAT memes become increasingly common, questions arise about why the trend has emerged.

UAHS junior Erin Lynch, who took the PSAT last school year, believes that the memes have recently become popular due to social media’s rise.

“It’s definitely part of our culture, and we have a very strong urge to relate to our peers. Memes are just one way that we can do that, and it’s part of the technology culture that has arisen [with] the Internet age,” Lynch said.

The PSAT logo. Courtesy College Board.

In fact, this memeing tradition has become so embedded in our testing culture that some students describe them as “the best part of the PSAT.”

Lynch finds some truth in this statement.

“I think it’s cool that students are able to find some sort of community within a possibly boring test, and something that might be dreaded might actually bring students together,” Lynch said.

Overall, support for the memes is widespread. Junior Eileen Dunn, who first came across them last year when she was perusing Twitter, agrees with Lynch.

“I think [the memes] made a test more fun, and I’m looking forward to them this year,” Dunn said before the 2017 PSAT.

Scores at Stake

How confidential the information is on the PSAT is never very clear. This has inspired a slew of reaction images embracing memers’ “breaking of the rules.”

“I like [the memes], but I would never post one because they can revoke your score,” Dunn said. “I feel like your score might be important for qualifying [for] scholarships… I think if they’re willing to risk their score, then they can post [memes],” Dunn said.

Furthermore, the College Board sent out a statement noting “[students] may not discuss or otherwise share any information regarding specific test content, including whole or parts of test questions and their answers.”

Arlingtonian reached out to College Board to learn their formal policy on these memes.

Jaslee Carayol, Associate Director of Media Relations, sent: “Students sign a Certification Statement agreeing they will not share any specific test question with anyone, in any form of communication, including email, text message, social media, or internet sites. Students are notified that disclosing exam content, regardless of topic, can result in their scores being canceled.”

This information may seem a little vague. However, as a piece from Huffington Post blogger Vanessa Kuhlor relays, the College Board deems that “the vast majority of recent postings do not reveal specific test content or answers.” While one can question what content is considered too specific to share, the consensus appears to allow posting about the PSAT.

Anyway, it does not seem like memers have to “laugh in hidden” to enjoy the experience any more. PSAT memes can still achieve their dreams, as long as they pay attention to the guidelines.