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The ‘Almost’ PSAT Scandal

Sam Calto, Staff Writer

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Many North students were not pleased to find out that the PSAT exam, scheduled for October 14 had been unexpectedly cancelled due to a so-called “materials distribution error” made by the College Board.

The first hint of bad news arrived on October 10, four days before the test was planned to take place. In an email sent out by the school administration, assistant principal Ron Levine notified test takers to come in early the next day for a “brief assembly” before school. Students were also instructed to bring in their registration packets.

Hundreds of students packed into the auditorium the next day, anticipating some news. But confusion quickly grew as Mr. Levine made his announcement. To the surprise of many, and the frustration of many more, the school had made a mistake. The PSAT test that the students had studied hours for? Cancelled.

Students would have to take a makeup exam on the 25th, 11 days later than expected. The reason for bringing in registration packets? Not every student had the same one. Around 20 test packets, to be used for the actual examination, had been leaked. Although not every student with an affected packet had realized any differences, none expected the great scale of the incident, nor its cause: a lack of awareness on the part of the College Board

For the first time, school faculty received registration packets and test packets in one box, stacked on top of each other. This change from past practices was noticed too late. The registration packets appear very similar to the test booklets, being printed from the same paper. The lack of distinction between the two packets led to the test booklets being misplaced and sent out to students. Had faculty members seen individual piles of booklets, the error would not have happened, but all it took was a tiny mistake to halt the lives of students.

For those unaware, the PSAT is a test administered by the College Board which acts as a practice test for the later SAT. The PSAT is also used for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which gives scholarships to high-performing juniors. The test covers all sections present on the SAT with the exception of the essay.

The PSAT can take place on three dates in a year, a primary date, a Saturday date, and an alternate date, for cases where a test can not be administered on both previous dates.

For 2017, October 11 was the primary date, but many students chose the Saturday date, October 14, the day of the test that was cancelled. After the mishap, the Saturday date was rescheduled to the alternate date, Wednesday, October 25. Many students signed up specifically for the Saturday date, so the alternate date was not preferable.

“It was really unfortunate that the PSAT had to be delayed around two weeks,” said Eyal Hakimi, a junior who was scheduled to take the October 14 test, “which added basically two weeks to all of our stress as students.”

For students like Eyal, who have to deal with homework along with a packed schedule, the rescheduling was a major issue. Students prepared in advance expecting the test date to remain unchanged. Having it pushed back  felt unfair to many who had been dutifully preparing for weeks. Some hired tutors at attended classes.  For others who needed more time, the announcement was a breath of fresh air, but the change still meant that schedules would have to be adjusted.

For, students who didn’t want to miss crucial class time, the weekend date was the preferable option.

Taking the test on Saturday left the weekdays open for doing work and studying. Instead, taking the test during the week meant that on top of other responsibilities, students had to also worry about the classes and work they missed.

To add insult to injury, the makeup test was scheduled for Wednesday, so students had to come in early on a day typically reserved for getting extra sleep.

“Yeah, I don’t like having to miss class for this and having to catch up with everything that classes did while I was gone,” added Eyal, “but then again, so were 50 other students. Productivity overall was slowed down.”

Masses of students missing half of the school day meant that not every teacher made classes productive. Missing class ended up being less of an inconvenience for students, although it still interrupted the day.

In the light of previous SAT scandals at North, the mishap is minor. But underscoring all the emotions is surprise that such an impactful error could have been made.

Human error is always possible, but there should not have been this kind of simple error when dealing with something as important as the PSAT.

For the sake of disgruntled students, this event should be taken as a lesson for those responsible for the error; that anything can be overlooked and easily prevented.

To keep North functioning, no one can miss a packet or two.

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The ‘Almost’ PSAT Scandal