This post: Big Changes Coming to the SAT: Here’s What You Need to Know
Written by: Marybeth Bock
Fall doesn’t just mean the start of another school year for our teens. It also means that many of them are gearing up to take standardized tests that, quite often, will help them decide which colleges to apply to.
Even with more colleges and universities currently staying test-optional with regard to admissions, most high school students still take the SAT or ACT. In fact, last year, 1.5 million U.S. students in the high school class of 2021 took the SAT at least once, according to the College Board.
What Exactly Is the College Board?
College Board is an American nonprofit organization that was founded in 1899 to expand access to higher education. Headquartered in New York City, its membership association consists of more than 6,000 institutions including schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. They not only manage SAT testing, they also provide resources, tools, and services to students, parents, colleges, and universities in college planning, recruitment and admissions, financial aid, and retention.
The College Board has announced that it will transition to a fully digital SAT in the upcoming years for both U.S. and international students. This new digital SAT is designed to be more student-friendly, making it less intimidating and more approachable for high school students. That’s great news!
So, what do these changes mean for your student? How will the digital exam be different, and what will be staying the same? Here are the big changes that are coming to the SAT.
1. How Students Will Take the Test
Unlike the current paper-and-pencil version of the exam, the digital SAT will be taken exclusively with a tablet or a laptop. If a student doesn’t have a personal or school-issued device, the College Board will provide one for them on the day of the exam (requests to borrow a College Board device will have to be made before test day). The digital format will also be more secure, as every student will have a unique test.
2. A Shorter Test Experience
Our teens should be thrilled to know that the all-digital SAT exam will only take two hours instead of three, due to shorter sections and a new section-adaptive test format. An added benefit is that students will have more time to answer each question.
3. The Section-Adaptive Test Format
This new section-adaptive format will allow the digital SAT to measure the same core skills as the current SAT, but more efficiently. The verbal and math sections will each be split into two “modules” or question sets. How each student performs on the first module will determine the difficulty of their second module. For example, if a student performs well on the first math module, they’ll see harder questions in their second math module.
4. Calculators Will Be Allowed for the Entire Math Section
The digital SAT will allow students to use a calculator throughout the whole math section. They can choose to bring their own approved calculator or use an onscreen graphing calculator that will be built into the testing app.
5. Shorter Reading Passages
Another change that most teens will welcome is the digital SAT will feature shorter reading passages that will be easier and faster to get through and analyze. And there will be a single question tied to each reading passage.
6. Faster Delivery of Scores
Instead of waiting weeks – that often feel like months – to receive a score report, students will receive their digital SAT score report in just a few days. This means far less time waiting anxiously for their results, and more time to review problem areas and take the test again if a student is aiming for a higher score.
1. The Content of the Exam
Students need to know that the digital SAT will continue to evaluate the same important content and skills that they’ve been learning in school to measure their career and college readiness.
2. Locations Where the Exam Can Be Taken
When you hear the term “fully digital,” you may think your student will be able to take the digital exam at home online but they’ll still be required to take the test at a school or a test center, with a proctor present in the room.
3. SAT Scoring Scale
The digital SAT will continue to use the same 1600-point scale that the paper-and-pencil SAT currently uses. This is important so that students can track their progress over time. The College Board confirms that there is a direct correspondence of scores between the digital SAT and the paper-and-pencil version. This means that, for example, a score of 1100 on the digital SAT signifies the same thing as a score of 1100 on the paper version.
The College Board will continue to support students who receive any kind of accommodations while taking the SAT exam.
For students worried about computer glitches, each testing room will have a technology coordinator present during the exam to help any student having device issues, and scratch paper will be provided at each location. For the math section, there will be a digital reference sheet with common formulas provided as well.
Your teen will be happy to hear that according to both students who have already taken the test and experts at College Board, the digital version of the exam is easier than the paper-and-pencil version. “The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” says Priscilla Rodriguez, the vice president of College Readiness Assessments at the College Board.
A helpful change for both students and parents is that while the score report will still contain all the information about the student’s performance and growth, there will be some practical additions as well. After taking the digital SAT, the score report will also connect every student to information about workforce training programs and two-year colleges, should that be of interest to them and their goals.
The College Board will be releasing official practice materials, including full-length digital practice tests, starting in the fall of 2022, even though the digital exam won’t be given in the U.S. until spring 2024. For students outside the U.S., the digital version will begin in the spring of 2023. (The PSAT will also transition to fully digital in all countries in the fall of 2023.)
As students wait for digital practice test resources, they can continue to do these things to prepare for the SAT:
- Keep math skills related to arithmetic, algebra and geometry sharp by memorizing common formulas.
- Read from different types of publications when possible to improve reading comprehension.
- Work on grammar skills, including punctuation and usage rules.
- Develop a study plan and stick with it.
- Think about realistic score goals based on target colleges/universities.
For upcoming testing dates and more news about the SAT, please visit College Board’s Website HERE.
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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