Drastic Changes coming to the SAT

Whether you’re enrolled in high school or still in middle school chances are you’ve heard of the SAT. To most students the SAT is one of the biggest tests they’ll take during their teenage years, and that’ll probably remain true moving forward; however, the one main difference that future test takers might encounter is that the SAT will be fully digital. That’s right, on January 25, 2022, College Board announced that by 2024 they plan on changing the SAT to be completely digital for US students. As for international students, they’ll get early access to the digital format sometime during March 2023.

Before we get into the changes it’s important to know that a majority of how the test is run stays the same. Although it may be digital, students will still have to commute to their local testing centers in order to take exams. It’ll still be in controlled environments with proctors overlooking exam sessions. College Board has also decided to stick with the 1600 scoring scale, and the formatting of the tests will roughly be the same with it being multiple choice for a majority of the test. 

But enough with the same old boring information. A couple aspects of the digital format that students can look forward to is the length of the test, question formatting, and scoring. College Board claims the new tests can be completed in two hours, instead of the usual three hours, decreasing the total time by a whopping 33 percent. The main contributing factor for this time reduction lies within how the newer tests are formatted. According to Priscilla Rodriguez, a College Board vice president, the digital tests rely on adaptive testing. Meaning the test is constantly changing and responding to student’s answers in order to avoid students answering questions that are either too easy or too hard. An overlooked benefit of adaptive testing is that cheating and void scores will be less common since the uniqueness of the tests makes it difficult for sharing answers. If you weren’t convinced yet then you might be surprised to hear that the reading and math sections will be slightly tweaked. As opposed to the current long and boring text, students can expect to read shorter and more relevant pieces of text that they might actually read in college. This can help with increasing concentration and reducing the total time taken on the exam. As for the math section, the no calculator section will be essentially removed as students are allowed to use a calculator for the entire math portion of the exam. And the cherry on top is that there will no longer be that egregious wait time of getting score back. The virtual format will allow for students to get their scores back within a matter of days instead of the usual nerve wracking wait of two or more weeks. 

The change from pencil and paper tests to fully virtually sounds almost too good to be true. There is virtually (no pun intended) no downsides of this transition. Some problems that could probably arise is that students who prefer to read on paper because of it being easier to follow and highlight won’t be able to do so anymore. Another problem that could potentially occur is internet safety as making tests online can lead to possible hacking attempts. Overall, the future implications are more positive than negative. One potential outcome of the virtual tests could be that other institutions start to follow. The SAT’s biggest competitor, the ACT, will need to respond to this drastic change College Board is making and follow in their lead of going digital. Another likely outcome could be that all future AP exams will be virtual depending on the response to the new SAT. They already have the programs and format to administer virtual AP exams so that idea wouldn’t be so far fetched. To put it simply, the digital SAT can mean for a more easy, efficient, and reduced stress testing environment for students across the world. 

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