Stuyvesant Administers Its First Digital PSAT
Students express their reactions toward Stuyvesant’s administration of the first digital PSAT.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Stuyvesant administered its first digital PSAT on October 14, following the College Board’s announcement of the digitization of the PSAT through the Bluebook app. This announcement was issued in 2022, but it was not officially implemented until the fall of 2023. On the day of the exam, juniors filed into their assigned classrooms at their designated testing time, which was either 8:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m., and were given school laptops with the Bluebook app already installed.
The structure of the digital PSAT exam contrasts with its paper form. The paper exam had three sections: 47 questions for the Reading portion, 44 questions for the Writing and Language portion, 17 questions for the Math No Calculator portion, and 31 questions for the Math Calculator. Students were given 60 minutes, 35 minutes, 25 minutes, and 45 minutes, respectively, for each section. However, the digital PSAT has two sections: the Reading and Writing section and the Math section, with all math questions allowing for the use of a calculator. Each section consists of two modules containing an equal number of questions. For the Reading and Writing section, each module has 27 questions to be completed in 32 minutes; for the Math section, each module has 22 questions to be completed in 35 minutes. Depending on a student’s performance on the first module of each section, the second module will vary in difficulty.
Unlike previous administrations of the PSAT, the digital PSAT was conducted on a Saturday in order to prevent disturbances to students’ instructional days. “Stuyvesant decided to conduct the PSAT on Saturday because the Department of Education does not afford the opportunity for schools to cancel the school day to administer the test, and we found it likely untenable to have the PSAT administered digitally to over 700 students while also running regular classes for even part of the day for the other three grades,” School Business Manager and Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram said in an e-mail interview. “It would not have been possible to administer to all interested juniors in one day under those circumstances, therefore, administering the test on a weekend was a better option than the disruption to several days of instructional time for all students.”
To accommodate all the juniors who wished to take the test, the school decided to schedule two time slots for test-taking. “The College Board did not allow for the administration of the test on more than one Saturday; therefore, two time slots were created to administer to all within one date,” Ingram said.
The novelty of the digital PSAT raised some concerns among students prior to taking the exam. “Digitally, the test is less time and a little easier, but it also brings a new level of uncertainty because we don’t know what the test will really be like because no one else [at Stuyvesant] has taken the digital PSAT,” junior Pari Patni said.
As a result of this uncertainty, students began to feel less prepared to take the digital PSAT. “Personally, I’m kind of scared. I don’t know what to expect [...] I also haven’t had much practice with the digitized version of the PSAT, so I don’t know how this might work for me,” junior Maegan Diep said.
Some juniors expressed their desire to stick to the paper version of the exam to abide by the traditional test-taking experience. “The PSAT and the SAT have both been on paper in the past and now we are switching to [a] completely digital [format]. I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh yeah, I want to get the SAT over with before it goes digital,’ and [they] have been trying to avoid the digital version,” Diep said.
After taking the exam, some students explained that the digital PSAT was more inconvenient for students who prefer to write directly on the test paper. “I didn’t really like how you can’t annotate passages or show your work for questions on the paper. For the math questions, there were diagrams, so I had to copy it all out and transfer it,” junior Jade Chu said. “I like underlining things. For math, I like to just write down my work next to the questions. That’s easier for checking your work.”
Additionally, the adaptive module system of the digital PSAT was controversial among students. While the self-grading nature of the digital PSAT can be an effective way to evaluate one’s performance, making a mental note of variations in difficulty can be distracting and cause students’ confidence to falter. “One thing that people were talking about is that it self-grades, and so it will adjust to you. People were looking at their second module question as a way to try and gauge how well they did on the first one,” junior Winifred Thompson said. “It is one of those things where you aren’t given a score, but if you see what kind of questions you are getting, that could probably get into your head.”
Other students expressed their preference for the digital PSAT due to its easier format. “For the [Reading and Writing] portion, [each question is based on] a short paragraph with one question instead of a long passage with accompanying questions. So for me, it’s a lot easier to do,” junior Eva Lam said.
Furthermore, Lam believes that the administration of the digital PSAT was more straightforward than that of the paper PSAT. “Handling the paper tests was very inconvenient. With it being online, it’s a lot simpler than having to fill out everything on the paper Scantron,” Lam said.
Overall, students recognized that the digitalization of the PSAT may be necessary to adapt to the ever-growing reliance on technology but acknowledged the disadvantages of the new format given that it detracts traditional test-taking techniques. “We are a pretty tech-savvy generation, so maybe this is a step toward the future of having more tech involved in our education, which is always a good thing,” junior Krishna-Priya Deb said. “However, I feel like traditional methods such as annotating passages and underlining key things in math problems [are] helpful when you take tests. I think going digital is going to take away that engagement that you have.”