No more waiting for proctors to gather the exam sheets or filling up bubbles: In addition to other changes, the SAT is now computerized.
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The revised format was first made available to students taking the test abroad in 2023. It will go on sale in the United States on March 9, 2024.
Priscilla Rodriguez is senior vice president of college readiness assessments at the College Board, a nonprofit that creates curricula and other standardized tests. “We had been hearing feedback from students and educators about what it’s like to take the SAT and what it’s like to give students the SAT,” she says. “And some of the rigidity, stress and the length of the test, we could only make those kinds of changes going digital.”
How Is the SAT Used by Colleges?
Sal Khan, the creator and CEO of the nonprofit education organization Khan Academy, asserts, “You are more than your ACT or SAT score.” “I believe that any college admissions counselor you speak with would concur with it as well. However, in an environment where schools have disparate grading schemes, an exam like the SAT at least provides a reliable indicator of a student’s preparation for college-level work.”
Standardized test results are no longer given as much weight in the admissions process by several universities. Test-taking was difficult for many pupils because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Furthermore, there are well-established racial differences in test results, which many claim exacerbate the discrepancies in college access. According to the nonpartisan Brookings Institute, for the class of 2020, less than 25% of Black students and 1/3 of Hispanic or Latino students met the college readiness criteria in math, compared to over 60% of White students and 80% of Asian students.
A nationwide advocacy group called FairTest reports that starting in autumn 2024, a record 1,900 four-year colleges and institutions in the United States would no longer require tests.
Aside from a new digital format that, according to the College Board, was taken by over 300,000 students worldwide in 2023, additional changes to the SAT include a shorter exam, the ability to use graphing calculators throughout the math section, and quicker results.
According to Ross Lingle, the career counselor at Whitefish High School in Montana, “I think it’s a great change overall and is meeting students where they are at.” “Colleges are going more test-optional, so I think it’s helping to keep the SAT relevant and making it more approachable.”
The reading, writing, and arithmetic portions of the three subjects are still tested on the 1,600-point SAT, even after the revisions.
The following are a few of the key SAT adjustments:
Because of the adaptive nature of the new digital exam, students’ performance on one set of test questions influences the difficulty of a subsequent set of test questions. Rodriguez claims that this technique, which is applied in other extensive tests, enhances testing security while enabling a far shorter test.
It is not a take-home test even though it is digital. Under the careful supervision of a proctor, tests are administered during the school day or on the weekend. However, students can now utilize a device given by the College Board, bring their own laptop or tablet, or use one that the school has issued.
Furthermore, the digital exam is made to guarantee that students will not lose their work in the event of a power outage or broadband problem.
Test Day Shortened
The exam day is shorter for teachers and students from beginning to end. The exam was cut from three hours to two hours in length. Additionally, proctors are spared the hassle of packing, arranging, and delivering exam materials because of the digital format.
Additionally, questions are shorter. For example, longer reading portions were swapped out for shorter ones. There is only one question linked to each reading, as opposed to several.
“We still want students to have rich texts that they need to read, understand, analyze and answer questions about,” Rodriguez explains. “But these walls of texts were not going to work on a digital device.”
Use of Calculators with Permission
There were two sections in the math section of the previous SAT: noncalculator and calculator sections. For the duration of the math portion, a calculator is now permitted.
Experts claim that allowing students to utilize an integrated graphing calculator or bring their own helps lower anxiety levels on test day. Given that the typical cost of a graphing calculator is between $100 and $200, not many students can afford one.
Results of the Accelerated Score
Students receive score reports from the digital assessments in a couple of days, as opposed to waiting weeks for results. Percentile rankings and a breakdown of a student’s score have usually been presented in reports. They’ve also offered details about scholarships and four-year universities.
According to Rodriguez, the College Board intends to provide materials about nearby community institutions, workforce development, and career opportunities under the new model.
The SAT Changes’ Effect
Since the SAT is seen as a “high stakes” test, a lot of students experience pressure to do well. According to the College Board, in a November 2021 digital version pilot program, 80% of participants said the new format was “less stressful” than the paper exam.
“What I hope and want is for students to be able to come in and just focus on demonstrating what they’ve learned and what they can do in the core reading, writing and math areas,” Rodriguez explains. “And have a lot of the stress around the test, the rigidity, the policies, all melt away.”
Exam stress is not the only obstacle. Concerning equity, the SAT has long been criticized. Registration fees may prevent a student from retaking the test in an attempt to improve their score. Moreover, a lot of students take the test with far less preparation than others, even if some may afford to pay for expensive SAT tutoring programs to gain an advantage.
Over the years, the College Board has addressed some of these concerns by implementing cost exemptions, free study materials, and weekday testing. Experts disagree on whether the latest adjustments to the SAT will address testing access and disparities when it moves online.
Some experts believe that because of the time savings, the gadgets and facilities provided, and the possibility of flexible test dates, the digital format might enhance access.
“For students in rural areas, like ours, we’ve had a pretty big decrease in testing opportunities,” Lingle explains. “That includes the duration of the previous exam as well as the difficulties in administering it, such as the amount of time needed to get ready and get to the testing site. Supervisors of testing are turned off by it. Students should have more opportunity to take it in their region because of the faster administration and fewer documentation to bundle and keep track of.”
Some experts are cautious, stating that it’s too soon to predict how the modifications would impact specific pupils and close current racial disparities.
How to Get Ready for the Shifts
Students can use private instructors, self-guided internet tools, and national test-prep firms as some of their preparation alternatives. On its website, Khan Academy, for instance, provides free practice tests, videos, and testing tips.
Adam Ingersoll, co-founder and principal of the tutoring company Compass Education Group, advises pupils to learn how to utilize the integrated Desmos calculator.
“The students who have the fanciest, expensive graphing calculators, historically, would have some advantage,” according to him. “Those standalone graphing calculators are probably inferior than the integrated Desmos virtual calculator. Also, learning how to utilize it is free.”
Experts advise against pupils automatically selecting the SAT as their preferred college admissions exam, even in light of current format modifications. To find the best fit, they ought to take SAT and ACT practice exams.
According to Ingersoll, a lot of kids could find the “shorter, slower-paced format” of the digital SAT more comfortable. “But it doesn’t mean it actually shows up in a higher score compared to their ACT for all kinds of technical and personal reasons.”