Last week, the College Board made a big announcement: the SAT is going digital.
Except this wasn’t such a big announcement—they teased for years that they’d move the traditional paper and pencil test to a more convenient form, reiterated that again at the peak of the pandemic, and only now posted a timeline for this change. In the US, the class of 2025 students (current high school freshmen) are those who will generally be the first impacted by this change.
Leading up to the digital SAT, there will be digital PSATs. We’ve gathered some questions that have been popping into our minds—and likely yours—so we hope this helps offer reassurance as we move into this Brave New World (if you haven’t read the classic, it’s great for “SAT-level” vocabulary words).
Why is this big news?
The digital SAT can be taken on a student’s, school’s, or College Board’s laptop or tablet. This is different and will likely allow for more opportunities for students to test since schools aren’t tied to the traditional 7 national SAT test dates currently (and historically) held on Saturday mornings. Here are some other key differences:
- A calculator will be allowed for all math sections.
- The test will be shorter (more like 2 hours instead of the old 3), with more time per question.
- The order of questions will vary student by student, lessening the likelihood of cheating.
- Scores will turnaround quicker than in the past and should be available within days instead of weeks.
- The score scale remains the same; 1600 is the highest total possible.
Why is this news not so big?
The content and material tested on the exam won’t be that different—reading, writing, and math are at the core of the exam.
Other ways in which the digital SAT will remain the same as its paper and pencil-based counterpart:
- Students must go to a centralized location to test (no testing at home) where they will be proctored. This means testing will be offered at schools and designated testing centers.
- Students who received accommodations for paper and pencil testing will continue to receive accommodations in this format.
- Khan Academy will continue to offer free review material aligned with the P/SAT.
- Students can be connected to scholarships and National Recognition Programs as a result of their SAT Suite testing.
- Our understanding is that the optional essay portion of the SAT that disappeared in June of 2021 will not resurface in the digital SAT. ACT, when are you getting rid of your essay?
What does this mean for my student now?
If your student is currently a sophomore, junior, or senior in a US high school, this news means nothing since the launch timeline won’t affect their testing experience.
If your student is a freshman or younger, they will move to digital testing beginning with the PSAT offered in fall of 2023 (fall of junior year). Digital SAT testing would then begin in 2024.
How can I (or my student) prepare?
If you’re a sophomore, junior, or senior, you continue to prepare for the traditional paper and pencil test. That means you should practice on your own or with an instructor and utilize the resources that are available for free. If you need a tutor, we can help.
If you’re a freshman, well, you need to finish about 2 marking periods of Algebra II before you sit for any type of an official SAT Suite product. We think that focusing on your current studies and getting yourself acclimated to high school and all that it has to offer is what you should be doing now. Read good books and interesting websites and talk with others about them. Connect with your community. Engage in class and extra-curricular activities.
What resources are available?
The College Board has recently revamped its SAT Suite website a bit, and some of this facelift seems to be related to the upcoming digital changes. The site continues to offer 8 full-length practice SATs and 2 full-length practice PSATs at no charge, as well as the ability to connect official P/SAT scores to Khan Academy for recommended lessons and practice. The SAT practice tests come in 2 formats: paper practice tests and practice tests for assistive technology. The PSAT practice tests come in two formats as well: paper practice tests and “online” tests. To access some of these resources, you do need to have a free Khan Academy profile.
I plan to take the test outside of the US. How is my timeline different?
Students testing internationally will have earlier access to the digital SAT exams, beginning in spring of 2023. This means that if you are a sophomore/10th grader abroad, you may need to pay attention to some of the pertinent changes sooner. But fear not: the vast majority of the test content remains the same, while the timing and strategies may differ a bit.
Why do we think the College Board is doing this?
We at Collegewise hope in earnest that it’s for the reasons of access and equity that the College Board (CB) has claimed in its rationale for the move. The reality is that the CB has had a history of revising the exams in significant ways every 10 years or so (flashback to 2014 when the announcement of the new rSAT—redesigned SAT—was made). While some of these revisions have made certain elements of test-taking more accessible (thank you CB for 8 full-length practice tests versus the ACT Company’s lone free practice test), the College Board is a company after all, and they have wrestled for market share with the ACT Company over the last decade or so. The ACT has offered international testers a digital form of its test since 2018, so it was time for the College Board to “catch up.” This raises an interesting question: when will the ACT make its digital form available to US students? Stay tuned....
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