Why the College Board is unable to fight against Twitter’s PSAT craze


Landon Young’s viral PSAT tweet about a graph detailing the number of people present at Lagos beaches during different temperatures. Photo by Ashley Donohoe.

Ashley Donohoe, Author

In the middle of October, thousands of students across the United States all sit down to take College Board’s infamous Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT). Advertised as a way to prepare for the common college-recognized Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the PSAT has garnered a unique following throughout the nation. After the test has been completed, students immediately jump to social media to create overly specific jokes about the content they are told not to discuss. These jokes have gained such a wide notoriety, platforms such as Buzzfeed collect and attempt to interpret some of the more popular tweets.

In an attempt to keep the information on their tests secret before all students complete the exam, College Board has started to respond to popular tweets and become outspoken on the rules each student agreed to follow. Huffington Post contacted a College Board representative, who explains, “while College Board is taking active measures to safeguard the testing and scoring process, the vast majority of recent postings do not reveal specific test content or answers.” However, there are still a large number of posts that do not fall under this category, but it is still questionable if College Board can enforce punishments against their creators.

It is debatable whether College Board’s score revocation is actually legal under United States contracting laws. In a US courtroom, contracts signed by minors are not binding, so students argue whether the agreement on the back of PSATs could be upheld if brought to trial. College Board claims the PSAT and other tests they administer, such as AP Exams and the SAT, should be treated as a student handbook if presented in a trial. Dennis Gregory, Walter Parrish, and Sarah Kupferer, authors of a report investigating how the United States handles student handbooks when presented in court, say, “The [past] cases affirmed the role of the student handbook as a legally binding contract between the institution and student.” Therefore, it is purely speculation as to whether the PSAT agreement would be upheld in court until a case involving score revocation is actually brought to trial.

Another issue College Board faces when attempting to punish PSAT meme creation is confirming the identity of those who post the jokes. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit do not require their users to broadcast their legal names on their profiles, and if a full name is included there is no way for College Board to confirm that is the identity the profile claims to be unless the page has a “verified” symbol. Unless College Board is willing to revoke the scores of multiple students purely based on speculation, they have no concrete way to enforce their agreement.

Battlefield sophomore Landon Young (@landon_young13) managed to create a viral PSAT tweet, amassing a total of 2.1 thousand likes. Contrary to College Board’s wishes, Young supports the PSAT craze because, “after the anxiety of a long standardized test, humor is an appropriate way to alleviate it.” College Board argues discussing the test creates unfair advantages for other students, but Young disagrees,

Students and teachers should be allowed to discuss test content, because the test is over and knowing the test contents benefits neither the teachers nor the students in any significant way.”

— Landon Young

He continues to explain how enforcing their score revocation policy is pointless because the information has no value after the test has been administered.

Julia Hyde (@itsjuliahyde) is a Battlefield junior whose Twitter profile has gained popularity among her classmates, but she refuses to tweet about standardized tests such as the PSAT, instead opting to direct message certain individuals her jokes to tweet from their own profiles. However, she says she does not tweet only as a “preventative measure,” and does not actually believe her score would be voided by College Board. Hyde says, “The agreement seems unnecessary since people aren’t strictly sharing answers about the test. They’re only discussing the stories. It fuels academic discussion in media forums, which College Board should be fine with.” She elaborates on the sheer extent of discussion these posts receive, and even though it may not seem good for College Board at face value, it may be helping them in the long run, “If they punish one person, they’d have to punish every person, and that would reduce revenue coming in to College Board since people wouldn’t take their tests anymore.” Lastly, she points out how the PSAT is almost inconsequential in a student’s academic career, so enforcing their agreement would be a waste of their time and resources.

In the end, it remains a mystery as to whether College Board will ever begin enforcing their score revocation, and if it is entirely legal if they did. Meanwhile, students from across the nation continue bonding over the standardized test.