I am an adult woman who did not take the Preliminary SATs and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test on Wednesday, but I can tell you a little bit about what was on it. There was a lengthy reading-comprehension section about someone named Ruth, who read someone named Nao’s diary. There were lots of questions about constants. Something about suffragettes and their filthy babies. Something about ambiverts.
I know all of this because the people who did take the PSAT/NMSQTs on Wednesday were teens, and after they finished the test, they did what teens are wont to do: They made memes about it and posted them on social media.
The College Board, which administers the PSAT and NMSQT, responded by posting a meme of its own, begging students not to post about the test because it could give others hints about the exam’s content.
That hasn’t stopped the teens. Despite the fact that exam-takers must sign a waiver saying they won’t discuss the test’s content — and despite repeated warnings that their scores could be canceled if they do — the annual Meme-ing of the PSAT has been occurring since at least 2014. Since then, it’s evolved into a yearly occurrence in which teens converge online and post hyperspecific references to questions on the exam they all underwent; in the past, they’ve covered test topics such as sea grasses, tomatoes, Frances whose dad has a heart murmur, and, of course, the College Board’s own online policing.
This year, students were especially obsessed with the saga of Ruth and Nao. A quick scroll through the #psat and #psatmemes hashtags indicates that, per PSAT reading-comprehension-section canon, Ruth found Nao’s diary on a beach, decided to read it, and inferred from her choice of purple ink and messy handwriting that Nao was a “round” slob (?) with soft, moist fingers (??).
“Ruth opening Nao’s diary and seeing that it is written in purple handwriting and not typed,” one teen wrote, over a video of two bros angrily yelling “EW” and running away from a computer screen in disgust.
Another posted an image of SpongeBob holding a picture of the puffer fish Mrs. Puff, annotated with the words “BIG FAT BITCH” and “poo poo.” “What Ruth thought Nao looked like after reading her handwriting,” they captioned it.
Not every student was aware of the potential risk they ran by posting jokes about the test, though. “Oh my god are they gonna find me and cancel my score?” asked one panicked teen when reached over DM about a #psatmeme they’d posted. (It’s unclear whether the College Board has canceled any scores over memes, and the vast majority of the students sharing them are using anonymous accounts.)
The teen, who asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, said they found the post-PSAT meme-ing cathartic: “I posted a meme because I have to laugh to keep from crying.”
Regardless of whether it’s a good idea for teens to be posting memes of their standardized tests, or whether the memes would even help future test-takers in the first place, there is one thing we can all agree on: Ruth sucked.
“The portion about Nao and Ruth was so creepy,” my source wrote. “Like Ruth was way too into her handwriting oh my god.”