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From Paper to iPad: The New PSAT

By Vishnu Suresh and Derek Yang

In the age where pixels meet pencils and algorithms replace answer sheets, the digital PSAT emerges as the beacon of a new era in standardized testing. Up until now, the PSAT has been a paper and pencil practice exam that not only helps students prepare for the SAT, but also helps them qualify for a prestigious national merit scholarship only achievable by the top 1% of test takers. As of this October, the College Board, the organization that provides the SAT and PSAT, has decided to make the PSAT a digital standardized test, marking the beginning of a new digital era. This new shift to digitalization comes with new rules, new formats and new resources to help test takers.

Students will take the new PSAT on an application called Bluebook which offers many convenient tools at hand. For example, test takers can mark any tricky questions for review after they have completed the test. Furthermore, they have access to a cross-out tool that eliminates answer choices, helping the test taker narrow down answer choices to the correct one. Test takers are also provided with a digital highlighter tool that can be used to distinguish important information in a text for that specific question.

Source by Suha Tasfia

College Board has partnered with the app BlueBook Exams to administer the digital PSAT.

“These new online tools provided will be more convenient for me to use compared to physical tools like highlighters, erasers, and pencils,” junior Maximus Josue said. “I feel like the digital notes that I take will be much more clear and organized compared to writing on the side of the page.”

Another vital change is the introduction of Desmos, an online graphing calculator that students can use instead of a physical TI-89 graphing calculator. While some people may be happy about this change, others have their concerns.

“I feel apprehensive about this change as during my time teaching through the COVID-19 pandemic, I heard from my students and many others that the online calculators, as well as the testing browser, were crashing due to the sheer amount of students that were using it at the time,” math teacher Mr. Sime said. “My concerns will be gone after there is at least one test run that goes fully operational and works as intended without causing distress to those taking it.”

Additionally, the digital PSAT will be split into adaptive modules. The test uses a multistage adaptive design, which means that the difficulty of the questions in the second set of the module depends on how accurately the test taker performed in the first module. This new adaptation has been faced with backlash as many see it as an unfair testing style.

“I feel that the new adaptive modules take away from the testing experience that has been previously given,” junior Aaron Koshy said. “It also gives an unfair advantage to some students while giving a disadvantage to other students just because they did better. It seems like it’s ‘fair and equal’ when in reality it isn’t.”

The digital PSAT represents an evolution in standardized testing, bringing the benefits and potential drawbacks of technology to the forefront of education.


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