My Learning Springboard students all know the importance of studying for the SAT or ACT. And while there has been confusion for families about the expanded list of colleges adopting a test-optional policy and what this really means for the admissions process, there’s no question that doing well on the SAT or ACT is still strategically advantageous and a great way to demonstrate academic excellence to prospective colleges and universities. Adding to the confusion surrounding test preparation was the College Board’s announcement during the 2021-2022 school year that a new digital SAT would be launched in the spring of 2023 for international students, and the spring of 2024 for students in the US. In this article, we’ll explain the changes that are planned.
What Are The Main Changes To The New Digital SAT?
In January 2022, College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, announced that a new digital test would launch in spring 2023 for international students and in spring 2024 for US students. Testing will still occur at a test center or school, and students can use either their own devices or a device provided by the test center. The College Board will not be offering an at-home digital test. The test will be shorter and allows for graphing calculators throughout the math section. There will also be expedited score results.
Why Is College Board Making Changes To The SAT?
“The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla Rodriguez of the College Board in an interview with NPR. “With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs.”
SAT Changes In The Past
Before this new digital format, the SAT changed a number of times. In 2014, the College Board abandoned the penalty for wrong answers and made the essay optional. In June 2021, the essay portion was discontinued. In 2005, the SAT changed its score scale from 1600 to 2400. In March 2016, the SAT reverted back to the 1600 perfect score. The new digital SAT is still scored out of 1600.
Reception To The New Digital SAT
According to College Board, 80% of students who took the pilot test in November 2021 responded that they found the new digital test to be less stressful, and 100% of educators reported having a positive experience. They claim, “The SAT Suite will continue to measure the knowledge and skills that students are learning in high school and that matter most for college and career readiness.”
New SAT Test Length And Format
The current paper SAT is 3 hours long. The new digital SAT will be 2 hours and 14 minutes long. The current paper SAT Reading section is 65 minutes long and the current SAT Writing and Language section is 35 minutes long. The new digital SAT Reading and Writing timing will be 64 minutes total. The new digital SAT Reading and Writing format will consist of 54 multiple choice questions, each with a very short passage. There will be 2 modules with a short pause in between. The Reading and Writing questions will be combined into one section.
The current paper SAT Math timing consists of one math section with no calculator for 25 minutes and another math section with a calculator for 55 minutes. The new Digital SAT Math section will be 70 minutes total. It will consist of 44 questions. There will be 2 modules with a short pause in between. There will be about 33 multiple choice questions and 11 student-produced response questions intermixed. Approved calculators or the testing application’s built-in calculator can be used on all math questions. Reading, Writing, and Math questions will continue to ask students to interpret graphs.
Other Changes To The Digital SAT
With the current paper SAT, students often receive a fifth section of unscored questions that are used for testing out new questions. With the new digital SAT, both the Reading and Writing and the Math sections will have 4 unscored questions mixed in with the scored questions. There probably will not be a way to tell which of these questions are not going to be graded, so be sure to approach questions as you would have before.
With the current paper SAT, students can only write in the test booklet. With the new digital SAT, students can write on provided scratch paper that is collected at the end of the test. Misbubbling will no longer be possible because students may only answer one question at a time. The new digital SAT will also include a highlighting tool and a flagging tool, so you can say goodbye to circling and starring questions you would like to review. The new digital SAT will make cheating more difficult because each student will get a unique test as the app downloads question pools and employs an algorithm to build the second module of each section based on the student’s performance on the first module.
By Nicollette Barsamian, MFA and Private Tutor specializing in writing coaching and standardized test preparation, Brad Hoffman, M.S.Ed and Board Certified Educational Planner, and Faya Hoffman, M.A. and Board Certified Educational Planner