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The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

​​Students adapt to digital testing with online PSAT

For first time, New Trier administers College Board’s digital PSAT/NMSQT to juniors
The Testing Center is located in Room 309 at the Winnetka campus

On Oct. 14 and 18, two-thirds of New Trier High School juniors took the digital PSAT/NMSQT. The College Board, the company behind the SAT Suite of Assessments, is fully transitioning to digital testing by next spring. 

The PSAT/NMSQT allowed students to familiarize themselves with the new format before they take the SAT in the spring. The digital test has two sections, Reading and Writing and Math, each with two modules, as opposed to three sections on the paper test. 

I am happy that [students] don’t have to sit and endure super lengthy tests.

— Chimille Tillery

Students who took the PSAT/NMSQT noticed that, with the reading questions, instead of long passages tied to multiple questions, there were shorter passages only tied to one question. 

Junior Teddy Jack said that when he took practice SATs, he would “blaze through” reading questions as he had seen the same passages in books he read. Now, with the digital format, that is not the case, as he thinks that the College Board is using less common sources. 

“It does give [a] disadvantage to people who have a wide breadth and familiarity with a lot of these sources,” Jack said.  

Junior Keira Chroniak said that students needed to quickly understand the passages on the paper test, which was “discriminating against people who are slow readers.” 

“Yes, you can become a faster reader by reading more, but at some point, there are just really fast readers and people that aren’t faster readers,” Chroniak said.             

The new format seems to chip away at the divide between slow and fast readers. 

“Having the shorter passages was so much easier for me, and I felt like I got more correct [answers] because I wasn’t just skimming it, I was actually reading it through,” Chroniak said. 

The digital test is also about an hour shorter than the paper test. Director of Curriculum and Instruction Chimille Tillery is happy with the College Board’s decision. 

“I am happy that [students] don’t have to sit and endure super lengthy tests,” Tillery said. “I just feel like that is stressful.”

Chroniak said she would prefer to take a shorter digital test rather than a long paper test but “would have to go through staring at a screen for…hours and my eyes being really tired.”

When the test was on paper, each student would receive the same test. Now that it is digital, the College Board decided to make the test adaptive. Instead of every student having the same test, the questions students see in the second module depend on how they perform in module one of a section. That feature makes the test shorter, providing students with more time per question while still assessing students’ skills and knowledge. 

Junior Stephen Zhao said he noticed the adaptive nature of the test when he took the PSAT/NMSQT. 

“I thought the first module was super easy, and many of my peers also agreed, but the second module, especially for reading, it was weirder, and it was a bit harder, and there were some questions that were just iffy,” Zhao said. 

The College Board switched to digital testing to make the test easier to take, administer, and to be more relevant to students. Students used the Bluebook app to take the test. 

Administrators gathered the juniors who registered for the test in the Gaffney Auditorium during advisery on Oct. 11 to prepare their iPads for the test. Due to connectivity issues, the check was unsuccessful, and students instead watched a video presentation in advisery the next day. 

“Knowing New Trier, putting a thousand kids in a small space, and wanting them all to go on the Wi-Fi, is a recipe for disaster,” Chroniak said. 

In the end, students received the information they needed to have a successful test day but to get to that point, the administration needed to figure out what that information was. 

“College Board didn’t really give a lot of direction,” Tillery said. 

Administrators were not provided with a sample account to use and become familiar with Bluebook. That pushed them to be creative when making the presentation. Tillery said that she worked with a student who had access to the Bluebook app to go through and take screenshots of the set-up steps. 

Test day went more smoothly, and should a device temporarily lose internet connection during testing, students have no need to panic. With the Bluebook app, students only need an internet connection to start and end the test. 

Chroniak, who took the PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 on paper, but PSAT/NMSQT online, said that when taken on paper, there is a “ceremonial” component to the test, such as “writing your name in the bubbles” on the Scantron sheet. However, when taken online, Chroniak found the test to lack the tone of standardized testing.  

“It feels more serious when it’s on paper,” Chroniak said. “It’s a little harder to take serious when it’s on the iPad because we have so many other things on our iPad that aren’t school related.”

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