By Nathalie Voit
The SAT will soon shift online and be shortened by one hour, the College Board announced in a statement on Jan. 25.
The “student-friendly” changes will begin internationally in spring 2023 and in the U.S. in spring 2024, said Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board.
The SAT will still be scored on a 1600 scale and administered in a test center or school with a proctor present–not at home, Rodriguez said. However, the changes will be substantial.
The assessment will be condensed from three hours to two, with more time per question. The digital SAT will also feature shorter one-question reading passages, and passages will be selected from a wider array of topics. Calculators will be permitted in the entire Math section, the College Board said.
Students will also gain faster access to their score reports. Test scores will be disclosed in days instead of weeks. Additionally, students will have access to information and resources about local two-year colleges, workforce training programs, and career options via their digital SAT Suite score reports. The change should reflect a more inclusive range of options available to test takers after high school.
“The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” Rodriguez said.
According to students who participated in a global pilot program of the digital SAT in the fall, the test-taking experience was significantly less stressful than the conventional paper-and-pencil version.
“It felt a lot less stressful and a whole lot quicker than I thought it’d be,” said Natalia Cossio, an 11th-grade student from Fairfax County, VA, who participated in the digital pilot.
“The shorter passages helped me concentrate more on what the question wanted me to do. Plus, you don’t have to remember to bring a calculator or a pencil.”
Educators said the online test is also easier to administer. Every test proctor who participated in the same pilot said administering the digital SAT was better or the same as administering the standard paper-and-pencil test. Educators will no longer be required to pack, sort, or ship the test materials.
The college admissions exam developer also said that the changes would make the assessment more secure.
“With the current paper and pencil SAT, if one test form is compromised, it can mean canceling administrations or canceling scores for a whole group of students. Going digital allows every student to receive a unique test form, so it will be practically impossible to share answers,” the statement read.
The changes arrive as colleges increasingly choose to ditch standardized tests like the SAT or the ACT as prerequisites for admissions. Although some universities had already begun pausing or dropping testing requirements before the pandemic, the coronavirus shutdowns accelerated the test-optional trend.
According to FairTest, a leader in the U.S. test-optional admissions movement, over 1,815 of the nearly 2,300 bachelor-degree granting colleges in the country are not mandating the assessment for high school seniors in the graduating class of 2022. Additionally, more than three-fifths of all four-year colleges have already committed to remaining test-optional or test-blind for the fall of 2023.
The drastic changes might have prompted the powerful education monopolist to reconsider its long-standing hegemony in the college admissions system.
“In a largely test-optional world, the SAT is a lower-stakes test in college admissions. Submitting a score is optional for every type of college, and we want the SAT to be the best possible option for students,” Rodriguez said, lending weight to the notion that the College Board may still want to play a relevant role in the lucrative college admissions industry.