6 minute read
Move over, Meta – the SAT is making headlines with its announcement of making the currently paper-and-scantron test completely digital, as well as making a few changes to the format. (The PSATs are also going to be moving online!) These are significant changes, but they aren’t as scary as they may seem. Let’s walk through all of the questions and answers that we have right now.
How much panicking is appropriate, on a scale of 1 to 10?
About a 2 – no panicking necessary. The change is just something to note and learn more about.
When is this taking effect?
This switch from the paper to digital test won’t go into effect until 2024, probably around March. (Since most students take the SAT during their junior year, this change will mostly affect the class of 2025.) One of the benefits of the SAT announcing this so early is that they’re likely expecting to receive feedback from students, parents, and teachers about this change. Don’t be afraid to speak up!
Where will the test be taken?
Although the SAT is going to be taken on the computer, students will not be taking the test at home. It is likely that students will take the SAT on laptops in a similar environment to the current SAT – monitored and in groups at a local school. Students will be able to bring their own laptops or use one provided by the school.
What exactly is changing on this digital SAT?
- Instead of reading questions and answering them by filling in bubbles on a paper test, students will be reading material and selecting their answers on the computer.
- There will be four total sections: two Verbal sections (combining reading and writing skills) and two Math sections. (The current SAT also has four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math [calculator], and Math [no calculator].)
- All Math questions will permit use of a calculator (like on the ACT). Students can still bring their own calculators, or they can use the calculator built into the digital test.
- The Verbal reading passages will be shorter and will only have one question per passage.
- The content of the test will not change, but the way it’s presented will be a bit different because it will be section adaptive and include fewer questions. This will shorten the test length from 3 hours to 2 hours, which will also give a bit more time per question.
[Psst – next month we’ll dive into section adaptive testing – what it is, how it’s different from the current SAT, and more.]
Was this change to a digital format expected?
It was definitely expected, but we weren’t sure when it would happen. In November 2021, the College Board ran a pilot program of the digital SAT in the US and internationally and received favorable feedback. Many students already take standardized tests on the computer, so this shouldn’t feel very different.
Additionally, the ACT made an online version available for students who did not have an in-person testing option. (The ACT also uses a digital version for its international test-takers.) Since the SAT and ACT seem to keep their policies relatively aligned, it makes sense that the SAT would make this move.
Is the College Board going to release a guide for comparing the scores of the paper SAT to the digital SAT?
Folks who have been involved with the SAT over several years may remember when the SAT switched from a 2400 point test back to a 1600 point test in Spring of 2016. Because the test content and the total score changed, the College Board released concordance tables, which were tools to convert student scores between the two different scoring methods. The digital SAT will include the same test content and the same total score as the paper SAT, so no concordance guides are needed to compare scores between the two test forms.
What issues are possible with a digital test, and how will the College Board minimize them?
- Laptop accessibility
Americans experience vast technology inequalities, and the College Board recognizes that students and schools may not have the resources to provide laptops for test-taking. The College Board has offered to provide loaned laptops to schools for test-taking dates.
- Internet and power accessibility
In anticipation of any internet or power outages, the College Board has designed the digital test with a feature (likely a sort of auto-save) that preserves the student’s progress, answers selected, and time remaining in the test.
More details learned from the College Board’s newsroom about the change:
The Highs – What are the benefits of a fully digital SAT?
- The digital SAT will save quite a bit of paper, since the College Board won’t be printing tests for 1.6 million test-takers each year.
- Educators won’t be burdened with packing, sorting, and shipping the tests, which has resulted in lost tests (and re-takes for students) in the past.
- A digital test eliminates marking issues like a student not bubbling in an answer entirely, not fully erasing, or not being allowed to get another bubble sheet after mis-marking more than one answer.
- In the history of the SAT, there have been select instances of sharing answers or invalidating the scantron machine, but these acts will no longer be possible.
- Scores will come back quickly (in days, instead of weeks!), which will help students make better decisions about their next steps, like if they would like to re-take the test.
- The test will have a built-in timer, so students don’t have to keep their own time on watches or by the clock.
- Score reports will no longer include the section subscores, which many students found confusing.
- States, districts, and schools will have more flexibility on when they give the SAT, rather than all being required to give it the same day at the same time.
The Lows – What could be challenging about a fully digital SAT?
- Test-takers who like to take notes will have to do a little more sketching or re-writing on their own paper or transition to taking digital notes.
- As with any new technology, it’s fair to expect some bugs and a period of problem-solving.
- The Math sections will still have some student-produced response/grid-in questions, which some test-takers don’t prefer.
- There will be fewer practice tests released, which won’t be as helpful for students who like getting the experience of multiple full-length tests before taking the real thing. However, practice tests should be available from the College Board by the end of the year.
No matter how students are taking the SAT, we at The Answer Class look forward to being your source of affordable, comprehensive test prep and standardized testing updates.
This isn’t the only change coming out of the College Board recently – check out our blogs about the SAT essay fading into history and the College Board no longer offering SAT Subject Tests.