CollegeBoard has announced that the SAT is going completely digital by 2024, with the digital SAT being administered internationally in 2023 and later in the U.S. in 2024. The online SAT was pilot-tested in November 2021 and yielded promising results, with 80% of students finding it less stressful and 100% teacher satisfaction.
CollegeBoard believes that it’s time to transition to the online SAT test for a variety of reasons, including efforts to stay relevant in an increasingly technological world and to expand testing availability and accessibility. With shorter and easier to administer tests, CollegeBoard expects an increase in testing times and locations. Testing availability is so important and CollegeBoard is using this moment to maximize SAT accessibility.
Staying Relevant Through Digital SAT Testing
CollegeBoard is updating its pencil and paper format in order to stay relevant and evolve with the times. But going digital is not the only change being made! CollegeBoard is using student and teacher feedback along with expert advice to update other elements of the SAT as well.
Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board states that: “The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant. We’re not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we’re taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible. With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs.”
Some changes to the online SAT format include shortening the test from 3 hours to 2 hours and eliminating the essay requirement, which CollegeBoard announced a year ago. Read on to find out more about what’s different about the new online SAT test.
CollegeBoard Responds to “Test Optional” Admissions Trend
Over the last several years there has been an increasing “test optional” admissions trend. The pandemic has hastened this trend. With remote and hybrid learning, along with social distancing requirements, taking and administering the SAT has proved to be extra challenging. In response, many schools have waived their SAT admissions requirements. In fact, more than 1,800 schools did not require standardized testing scores for 2022 admissions.
In December 2021 Harvard announced that it will not require SAT or ACT scores for admissions through the next 4 years. Many speculate that because of Harvard’s influence and prestige, this announcement will contribute further to the “test optional” admissions trend.
The online SAT, however, complicates this question. What are the pros and cons of standardized testing and how does the new digital format of the SAT factor in?
Changes to the Digital SAT
The online SAT will feature many changes. Most notably, the test will be shortened from 3 hours to 2 hours. This can be partially accounted for by its increasing efficiency in terms of its administration. Proctors will no longer have to shuffle and sort papers. Nor will students have to wait for all of their peers to complete a written section before moving on as a group.
The digital SAT will be taken on laptops and tablets at testing centers. Students will be permitted to use their personal devices or devices issued by the school. In order to address inequities, if there is a shortage of devices, CollegeBoard will provide additional devices for students to use during the online SAT test.
The online SAT poses several concerns, especially related to security. Given the online nature of the test, each student will be issued a unique version of the test. This will eliminate any cheating. The digital SAT will also be taken on a secure browser. This will prevent students from visiting other websites, copying test material, or using unapproved tools and applications.
Furthermore, if a student loses power or wifi connection while taking the test, the digital SAT has been designed to save their work while their devices are temporarily disconnected.
The digital SAT will feature shorter and more diverse reading passages with more time allotted per question. Students will be able to flag questions they would like to return to later. The digital timer will also be key in helping students work efficiently and practice time management.
New Online Tools for the Digital SAT
The digital SAT will also feature a variety of online tools. Calculators will now be allowed during the entire math section and will be available on screen.
Other tools include:
Clock: This feature will have a countdown for each section and will have a 5 minute warning before the end of a section.
Highlighter: This digital tool will enable students to highlight passages, questions, and answers to help them stay organized.
Line Focus: This feature will both highlight text while masking surrounding text to help guide students while they read.
Zoom In/Zoom Out: This feature will allow students to adjust the size of reading passages and images on screen while they complete their test.
Mark for Review: This feature will allow students to “flag” questions to return to later.
Strikethrough: This feature will allow students to eliminate answer options as they take the test.
Notes: Students will be provided with space for digital note-taking, in addition to physical scrap paper.
Reference: This feature will allow students to view standard mathematical formulas during the math section.
Additional time and other accommodations will still be available to qualifying students and can be explored in full on CollegeBoard’s website. The digital SAT format simplifies many of these accommodations, with coordinators easily able to customize font color and size as well as enable text-to-speech.
What’s the Same About the Digital SAT?
The online SAT will feature many changes but some things will stay the same. The test will still be scored out of 1600 points and – excluding the essay requirement – will include the same sections. Tests will still be administered at school or at a testing center and will be proctored.
In short, the digital SAT will maintain the same vigorous security and content standards as the original format.
Feedback from Students and Teachers
Students and teachers interviewed after completing the pilot-tested digital SAT in November 2021 have shared lots of positive feedback.
Students favor the digital SAT for many reasons. Many students remark that they can type faster than they can write, that the digital SAT helps them focus and manage their time better, and that the familiar online formatting eases anxiety. Students also appreciate how the test is shorter, more efficient, and features shorter, more diverse reading passages. Although comparatively small, students also said not having to worry about having to remember, use, and sharpen pencils relieved some stress.
Teachers and proctors appreciate how streamlined the new digital SAT is and how they no longer have to worry about sorting, collecting, and storing papers. The administration process is much more straightforward and better allows students to work at their own pace.
Can You Take the SAT at Home?
Although you can now take the SAT online, you cannot take the digital SAT at home. Tests still need to be taken at a school or testing center where students can be properly monitored.
The new digital format, however, will likely increase how often the test is offered. Due to the shortened test, many students will also likely receive the option to take the digital SAT during the school day. Not only will this increase overall accessibility, by eliminating the need to travel to testing locations, but taking the SAT during the school day may help ease testing anxiety.
A Question of Fairness: Does the SAT Help or Hinder Minority Students?
There has been an ongoing debate throughout the years as to whether or not standardized testing is fair, particularly in regards to how accessible it is to various minority students.
Many have argued that standardized testing is discriminatory. While wealthier students are able to pay for tutoring, practice tests, and other resources, many other students cannot afford these options. Additionally, many have argued that the featured reading passages favor wealthier, more affluent worldviews.
Others argue that standardized testing actually helps establish more equality within the college admissions process. SAT scores may help strengthen students’ college applications with high potential but comparatively low GPAs. Grades and GPAs vary greatly between schools and grade inflation can influence admissions unfairly.
There are more than 25,000 high schools in the U.S. and it is impossible for colleges to be familiar with all of them. Colleges simply do not have the resources to have insight into the various standards of all of these schools. Due to this, some argue that standardized testing scores are a more objective reflection of a student’s academic abilities.
The SAT is also often more accessible to low-income students than other college admissions factors such as sports and extracurricular activities, which can be costly.
Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board shares: “I’m a first-generation American, the child of immigrants who came to the U.S. with limited financial resources, and I know how the SAT Suite of Assessments opened doors to colleges, scholarships, and educational opportunities that I otherwise never would have known about or had access to. We want to keep those same doors of opportunity open for all students.”
While the SAT continues to pose controversy, it is important to appreciate the opportunities this test can provide. All students deserve to have access to the resources to further their education and the fact that the SAT can help secure resources for some students is admirable.