The SAT, a standardized test offered through the College Board, is going digital. The test has traditionally lasted three hours and was completely on paper. Recently, colleges have started making the inclusion of an SAT score optional on their applications and have been questioning whether or not it should be included in the college admission process. The College Board is finding that students still want the option to submit test scores, though, and are creating this digital version to make it more accessible to all students, no matter their income, ethnicity, or the like.
How will this work? Students will still go to testing centers or schools and be proctored, but they will have the option to either take the test on their personal device or a school-issued tablet or laptop. This is to ensure all students have a sufficient connection to the internet, power, and the right materials to complete the test.
The College Board has also programmed the answers to autosave to make sure that technical issues do not get in the way of a student’s testing experience. Since it is online, this gives schools more flexibility when choosing when to test, allows scores to be released sooner, and unique versions of the test to be given to each student. The test has been reprogrammed to accommodate the level of the student and provide them questions at a level that depends on how they did in the previous section.
The scores have also been connected to relevant information on workforce training programs, two-year colleges, and careers automatically so that students can learn more about some potential options they may have in the future.
In creating this digital platform, the College Board hopes to make the test more accessible to all students. Priscilla Rodriquez, the vice president of college readiness assessments at the College Board, said “The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant.”
This transition will bring changes to the test. For example, the test will now last two hours instead of three, calculators will be allowed on the math section, and the reading section will have shorter reading passages and only one question per each.
Although these modifications will change the test in many ways, some features will remain the same. These include the purpose of the test being to assess students on their college and career readiness and what they have been learning through their schooling, scores being placed on the traditional 1600 scale, accommodations for those who need it, connections to scholarships, and practice information available for student use on Khan Academy®, a website with practice tests for the SAT and lessons on various subjects.
Students tested this new format and seemed very pleased with their experience. One of these testers, Enoch, said, “I found the pacing to be less strenuous and time was less of an issue with the digital test than with the regular SAT which I appreciated.”
Another, Kirsten Amematsro, stated “It felt more streamlined. It’s just not as easy for me, honestly, to focus on the paper as it was the computer.” She liked using her own laptop as she was used to using it. Others had positive reactions as well.
Educators also appreciate the new format. One of the test center coordinators in China for the digital SAT, Michelle, stated “A digital SAT test day is much faster. The highlight for me is at the end of the test day, no packaging of paper and tests, no forms to fill out and I didn’t have to spend another half hour at the test center just to make sure that things are done.”
The big question is when is this happening? The College Board plans to make the test digital for international students in March of 2023 and students of the United States by spring 2024. They aim to make all PSAT tests (PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT) digital by fall 2023.
Although over 76% of United States colleges and universities are no longer requiring the addition of an SAT score in their admissions process, the College Board and students see reason to keep submitting scores optional.
The College Board says that it is very important for keeping a holistic admission process since so many students from rural, underrepresented groups, or first-generation college families use them to enhance their application and colleges considering the background of the student when reviewing these scores can help increase the diversity at these colleges. The Common App, however, found that in the fall admissions of 2021, less than half of applicants submitted their scores, numerous of whom were from these underrepresented groups.
It was found that 83% of students want it to continue to be an option to submit SAT scores, according to a study done by the College Board. Kirsten Amematsro, one of the digital SAT test-takers mentioned before, said “[The test] definitely doesn’t offer the full profile of who a student is, it’s not like the missing piece. But it can make your application better. It just kind of speaks to what you can accomplish in your testing ability.” She wants to include a score to be the finishing touch on her application.
The SAT testing process has a lot of changes coming its way, although it still serves the same purpose. This digital format will provide a more modern approach to the old American tradition in its college admission process and pave the way for future processes. Paper to digital—the trend of the times.