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The Arcade

The Student News Site of North Hollywood High School

The Arcade

The Student News Site of North Hollywood High School

The Arcade

The HGM and Testing Culture

Featuring the SAT
The+HGM+and+Testing+Culture
Erica Sherkin (She/Her)

The Highly Gifted Magnet: a program designed for students designated as ‘highly gifted’ based on a test usually taken early in elementary school, one that very few students remember taking. 

Deemed as ‘super-testers,’ the HGM student body is no doubt composed of intellectually gifted minds and a diverse community of students. So how do these testers fare against standardized tests such as the SAT? The HGM junior class of 2025 expresses their thoughts on the program, the SAT, and standardized testing as a whole. 

On Saturday, November 4th, 2023, the second-to-last paper SAT was held. Starting January of 2024, the SAT will be switched to be conducted completely online. While this change is out of the students’ hands, it does not mitigate the opinions of the students who take the test. Because of this, many HGM juniors scramble to take their chances at one of the last paper SATs, as the familiar format and content, some say, will give them greater potential to maximize their score.

“I have a hard time articulating my exact thoughts when I don’t have… access to a pencil and paper to take notes on as I am reading a text, or looking at the directions to a math problem,” states Siyeong Kim. Kenan Blair says, “There’s something about writing on paper that makes everything feel more real.”

On the other hand, some would also explain their preferences for the new digital format following the online PSAT conducted on October 25th. 

Dylan Chang notes, “I think there [are] benefits and drawbacks to both, but I overall prefer the online format. The online format makes it trickier to make mistakes…However, I thought [it] was easier, especially with regards to the reading section, where the passages were much shorter and easier to analyze.” 

Nonetheless, tensions are high for these students: after paying the $60 registration fee, several HGM juniors would then spend weeks and months in preparation for the big day. Many stated that this would have been their second or even third time taking the test, and yet, the nerves were all the more present. 

Yuran Jung shares, “I was a little nervous as this was the third SAT I had taken and wanted to be done so that I didn’t have to take another [one].”

During the preparation process, the students would agree that practice tests and Khan Academy are the way to go. “In total, I’ve taken around 5-8 practice tests and improved on any past errors or mistakes,” says Tej Patel. Kinzie recalls, “I found Khan Academy to be extremely helpful, as it can link to your College Board account and provide tailored practice suggestions based on incorrect questions on previous tests.”

Ultimately, the students expressed their hopeful goals and outcomes to be gained from this test and experience. Many of the students express their wishes to obtain a score above a certain threshold and hope that such a score would be satisfactory enough for them to not take the SAT again. Kinzie shares, “I want to be able to have a score that I feel accurately reflects my efforts and abilities as a student, while ultimately helping me in the college admission process.” 

Kim shares another hopeful outcome, “I want to become comfortable… preparing for a test, not knowing what’s going to be on it, what I’m exactly being put on tried for, makes someone really, really, uncomfortable. Since this is an unavoidable experience, I hope to be able to gain stability back in my life. ”

At the end of the day, the students shared an opinion regarding the importance of the SAT as a whole, Miriam Davison explains, “The SAT’s importance almost always has to do with college. The environment I’ve grown up in, and especially the environment I’m in now, puts expectations on me regarding college, so the SAT goes hand in hand with that.”

As they each walked into their testing rooms, last-minute thoughts were kept for comfort: Kinzie says, “Someone had told me the day prior that statistics show that if you practice good posture for thirty seconds before taking a test, that it helps with the test-taking process.” Patel adds, “I walked in with a positive mindset… I knew what I had to do, so I made sure to put my all into this test.”

Three and a half hours later, the students emerged, finally at ease. 

Regardless of what occurred inside the testing room, every student expressed their relief to have finished. No longer plagued with a looming standardized test to study over, the juniors now have freed time for themselves to enjoy hobbies and schoolwork. 

But, upon concluding the test, a reflection: How does the HGM actually affect or contribute to student performance on standardized testing? A reality check from the students breaks the surface: “The HGM is a double-sided sword, in many respects.” says Miriam Davison. 

Ynez Park brings up one of those sides into the equation, “In being a small community, HGM students tend to share test scores with each other, and as a result, others sometimes feel pressured to score well.” 

The test-sharing practice within the HGM certainly has its benefits and drawbacks, for some, the competition that it brings with test sharing, as the constant presence of comparison can lead to greater stresses and pressures for students to constantly place on themselves.

Kim expresses, “The scores, I feel, aren’t asked out of curiosity, but to confirm or deny what the bias they had of what score the person would have gotten…It feels both sad and malicious since it implies that someone’s intellect is based on what the community [can] see for themselves, and scores just happen to be one of the easiest tools to be able to gauge that.” 

Jung expresses a similar sentiment, “I just feel like the HGM makes those standards much higher, and turns them into a more social standing competition rather than solely academic.” Because of that, some like Rachel Davison would say, “One has to disengage from a lot of the expectations that peers have in order to maintain a healthy mindset.”

While at the same time, other students such as Serj Petrossian, would say, “The competition in the HGM is definitely extreme, but it also drives everyone to perform better than they would in a program that doesn’t push students as much. So, although it could be demoralizing at times, I think it’s probably helpful academically in the long run.” Patel joins in, saying, “Part of my motivation for doing well is academic validation from my peers. Comparing test results and scores [is] a staple in the HGM and will continue to be.” 

Blair elaborates, “In terms of competitiveness, it’s not about beating others in a race, but more of a ‘if everyone is going to succeed then I have to as well’, which feels similar to competing.” However, Daniel Ji also notes, “ I don’t think the SAT is the only way to achieve academic success.”

Regardless, the testing environment within the HGM is without a doubt one of the most competitive atmospheres there is, as the peers that the students are surrounded by not only push for others to succeed whether intentionally or not, but also provide a strong support system–either through friends or the several staff members. 

In the end, an important idea should be taken into consideration as presented by Chang, as “for many students… test scores are a very small part of what makes them good students and good people.”

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About the Contributors
Dana Injan (She/Her)
I am an HGM junior.
Erica Sherkin (She/Her)
Erica Sherkin (She/Her), Photography Editor
Hello world! I am so excited to capture the ins and outs of our school and feature the talented photographers of NHHS.
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