Starting in 2024, the SAT will be fully digital. You can expect a shorter test that is conducted entirely on a computer. What does that mean for the future of the test and students preparing for it? We'll break it down for you here.
The first students to take the digital SAT will be international students taking the SAT in March of 2023. International testing centers will debut the new version, and PSAT students will follow with a digital version of that test in the fall of 2023.
By springtime 2024, all U.S. schools will transition to the fully digital SAT Suite of Assessments, including the PSAT and SAT. This means that, for students who are on a normal testing timeline and looking to take the SAT during the spring of their junior year, the class of 2025 will be the first class to take the new digital SAT.
So why now? In short, Covid accelerated the need for digital testing. The cancellation of test dates in 2020 and the transition to learning online for students influenced College Board's decision to make the change. Going digital allows for more flexibility with when and where students can test, which provides more opportunities for students in rural and low-income areas.
Schools that offer the test on an SAT School Day (which have shown to be an important resource for students who otherwise would not test) have much more flexibility on when to offer testing, allowing for more student opportunity to test and in turn, get into college.
The biggest point to focus on with this change is that the SAT will still be, essentially, the same test. Its purpose will still be to measure college readiness in students, the formatting will just be a little different. It will still test the basic skills you should have developed in high school like algebra, grammar, and reading comprehension to determine how you compare to other students, and how ready you are for college. We'll go over the new formatting in a bit, but first let's go over what will look the same on the digital SAT.
Some key parts of the SAT, including the format (digital vs. paper-based) and length, are changing. But some really big parts of the test are staying the same. Let's take a look:
The SAT's scoring scale has changed a few times over the years, but this most recent change will not come with a new scoring scale. Scores will still be out of 1600, which allows educators to continue comparing scores from past years to current years in order to track progress over time.
In general, students in recent years score higher on the SAT than they used to. This kind of data is important for test makers to ensure the new versions they release are still an accurate measure of college readiness in high school students.
Don't get too excited. You will not be able to take the SAT from the comfort your bedroom bean bag -- that could open all kinds of doors for cheaters. Instead, the SAT will still be taken in a testing center or at school, with a proctor present.
Much like the current version, proctors are necessary to discourage cheating and keep everyone on task, especially when you're using your personal device for such an important test. Proctors and controlled environments ensure everyone has the same testing experience and no unfair advantages are present. The testing day will look super similar to how it is now, so you shouldn't expect much change there other than the actual medium of the test. At least you won't have to track down a number 2 pencil!
College Board and Khan Academy will still offer free official full length practice tests to help students prepare for the new test. They understand the importance of study resources, especially with the new unfamiliar format.
These practice tests can be found in their digital testing app. While practicing the current format will still probably help you prepare, it will be helpful to know exactly what to expect come digital testing day. The best way to practice is to get better at the actual concepts tested, and the concepts tested are not changing. Know the concept, ace the question, whether it's old school with paper and pencil, or on your mom's tablet, or a school owned laptop.
The scores received on the digital SAT will still qualify you for scholarships. The entire SAT Suite of Assessments is converting to this digital format, meaning PSAT/NMSQT students will begin seeing the test this way in the fall of 2023. The National Merit Scholarship is the most prestigious honor a high school student can achieve, and that won't be taken away with the digital version. The scores are still representative of where you stand among your peers academically, and therefore still qualify you for an array of scholarships if your scores are good enough.
If you qualify, accommodations will still be available come 2024. Accommodations are awarded to students with disabilities, whether it be dyslexia, ADHD or a wheelchair, as an attempt to even the playing field. This could mean you get extra time to test, help translating questions, a separate testing room, or really whatever else College Board deems a fair equalizer.
In the past, one of the accommodations offered to qualified students was a digital version of the SAT, which everyone will have the luxury of experiencing in 2024. However, the accommodation of a hard copy, paper and pencil version will be available to students now as well. Accommodations are usually granted based on school and medical records. To find out if you're eligible for accommodations on the SAT, contact your school counselor for a list of proper documentation to send to College Board for approval.
Hopefully now you're feeling less uneasy about the new format, as it really will be the same test, just with a few tweaks here and there. Let's talk about what is going to change with the new version of the test.
While much of the test will be familiar, there are a few really big changes with the digital SAT. Let's take a look:
This is the big one, the most dramatic change. Students will take the test on either a personal device or on a school-issued device, depending on where you go to school. If you don't have a personal device, one will be provided for you. Don't worry, your lack of iPad won't disqualify you from taking the SAT. If you think about it, the entire world has been transitioning to digital versions of things for years, so it isn't really a surprise College Board is jumping on that train. A digital version opens more doors for students and test takers to improve the efficiency and experience of the SAT.
The digital version allows for more opportunity in test variation as well. Each student has the potential to see a different, personalized version of the test, which helps battle cheating and invalidated scores. Currently, if one test is invalidated, it could affect the entire group of students testing with the same version, in case answers were shared. The new test's unique version per student eliminates the risk of answer sharing entirely. Great news for students who studied hard and prepared, bad news for cheaters.
You're probably wondering: How can they ensure people don't cheat if they're using their personal devices? It's so easy to open a tab and google a question for a quick answer, right? The digital testing application from College Board is specially made to limit access to other apps and browsers while you're testing. Also, there will still be proctors to ensure good, honest academic fun.
College Board has really thought of everything with the program you'll take the test on. If you lose internet connection, it won't matter, you can test on with or without internet. If your device dies, the test will pick up where you left off when you turn it back on. None of your progress will be lost with either issue.
It's best to ensure that doesn't happen and bring a charger, though. You wouldn't bring a green crayon to take the current SAT, so make sure you're prepared for any tech issues come test day. Worst case scenario, College Board has resources dedicated to trouble shoot tech issues. Each testing center will have a technology coordinator for extra tech support on test days.
This is also a big one. The SAT will be shorter with the digital version by about an hour. It will also feature a countdown on the test so you can easily track where you are and how you're managing your time. Gone are the days of the proctor interrupting the silence or writing how much time you have left in increments on a chalkboard as you test.
The test can be shorter because it will feature shorter reading passages and fewer reading questions. This is typically one of the most difficult parts of testing for many students. The time crunch of only having about a minute per question, without factoring in reading the actual passage, can be a hurdle for even the best students. This change will come as good news to slower readers everywhere!
Some more excellent news: a calculator will be allowed on the entire math section on the digital SAT. There will be a calculator built into the testing app for you to use, or you're still welcome to bring your own if you prefer the old fashioned clickety clack of your TI-84's buttons.
A huge advantage to digital tests is the elimination of manual packaging and shipping of the tests, meaning your scores get to you faster. The sooner you have your scores, the sooner you can get on with your life. This can help you decide whether you should retake the test, try for the ACT instead, or help decide which colleges to apply to. The whole point of transitioning the SAT to digital is to improve efficiency for the student and College Board.
The new digital scores will have a way to link the students to relevant resources. This could be trade schools, community colleges, universities, or possible career paths. The breakdown of your scores will be more in depth and helpful with choosing the best next step for you on your journey.
Change is scary, sure, but this one was predictable. The world of education is evolving into more of a digital space, and it makes sense for the SAT to follow.
While Covid certainly influenced the decision, the digital format is intended to open doors for more students and make the SAT more accessible to those who want to take it. It is also designed to provide a more efficient test taking and grading process to accurately measure a student’s college readiness.