College Board Announces Digitalization of the SAT

The SAT will become digitized in 2024 in addition to a few other changes to the test, including its duration and format of questions.

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By Aryana Singh

In November 2021, the College Board piloted a digital version of the SAT and found that 80 percent of test-takers reported the revamped exam to be less stressful to take. In light of this, the SAT will be administered digitally starting in 2023 for international students and 2024 in the U.S.

The digitalization of the SAT reflects a trend of lessening the value of standardized testing in one’s college application as hundreds of universities shift towards test-optional admissions: in 2016, the SAT scoring system was remodeled to remove penalties for wrong answers; in 2021, the College Board permanently discontinued the SAT Subject Tests and SAT Essay to ease the burden of standardized testing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the digital SAT comes with changes, including reduced exam length, shorter passages in reading and writing sections, and permitted calculator use for the entire math section. Test scores will also be released within days rather than the current two to four weeks.

To address possible inequities during test-taking, the College Board is planning to rely on test sites as it has in the past. Though the digital SAT will be administered on personal or school-issued devices, it will continue to be proctored in schools and test centers. “Kids would still be able to come to Stuy [on] a school day to take the digital SAT, and if they don’t have a device, then [the] College Board or the school would provide it for them. So there shouldn’t be a major equity difference there,” Director of College Counseling Jeffrey Makris said.

The college counseling office at Stuyvesant first learned of plans to create a digital alternative of the SAT during the early stages of the pandemic. “We didn’t know that it was imminent, but we had known that [the College Board] had been thinking about a digital SAT,” Makris said. “[The College Board] had talked about [the changes to the SAT] in the early season of the pandemic, postponed it, and then here we are.”

However, the new changes will be implemented sooner internationally than in the U.S., so they do not apply to current sophomores, juniors or seniors. “[The changes are] only going to affect our current freshmen, so their timeline. Older students [will] be done with the process before the digital SAT comes to pass,” Makris said. “Honestly, for now, if you’re in 10th or 11th or 12th grade, don’t even think about it because it doesn’t affect you.”

Administrators at Stuyvesant anticipate that both students and staff will benefit from the new exam format. “I believe it’s a change in the right direction. A shorter test and use of [students’] own device[s] make it more accessible,” Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram said in an e-mail interview. “For larger schools like Stuyvesant, who administer school day SATs, we hope it eases the scheduling issues [that its] administration causes to the school day.”

The administration also expressed hopes that the new SAT format will be a more accurate assessment of academic performance. “We have an idea that it’s going to be adaptive, [meaning] your performance could influence the questions that you see next. But obviously, we don’t know what that looks like yet, since we’re just getting it from [the] College Board’s announcement,” Makris said.

It is generally expected that the shorter test will help students that would have otherwise struggled with the pacing of the former length of the exam. “The [current] SAT [is] a bit of an endurance test,” Makris said. “If kids were getting extended time, there’s fatigue, so I think a shorter exam is probably a good idea.”

Some students have expressed preference for the paper-based SAT over the proposed digital version, expressing that they have more confidence with paper testing due to their familiarity with exams administered on paper. “If I’m going to take the test at all, I would rather do it on paper,” sophomore Patrick Xu said. “Reading the questions on a screen is a little bit harder to pay attention [to]. I think the in-person experience is something that I can perform a lot better in.”

Others expressed concern over the switch. “My initial thought was ‘my worst fear has come true,’” an anonymous freshman said. “We’ve been spending our whole lives using paper when it comes to exams [...] It’s what we’re used to, so I feel like I have to change my understanding.”

Many students are still unsure of the impact of the digitalization of the exam due to their lack of experience with taking exams online. “I’m not sure if it’s going to be beneficial or harmful to me. The only tests I’ve ever taken online are like Stuy DeltaMath tests and whatever we had in remote learning, and that was okay, but the SAT is like [two] hours, it’s digital [which] no one’s really done. So I’d say that probably I’m neutral about it,” freshman Reem Khalifa said.

Some students have also expressed unease that the new digital SAT will be easier to perform well on, and that the modified content and method of administration will decrease the weight of the SAT during the college application process. “Making [the SAT] easier will definitely increase many people’s scores generally. More people would do better, and then it’ll be more common, and colleges won’t really care about that as much,” Xu said.

In spite of these proposed changes, Makris believes that the Stuyvesant student body will continue to excel on the modified SAT, expressing that students are well-prepared by the rigor of Stuyvesant’s courses. “[The students] have the skill set, and it typically shows up on these exams. A lot of the core academic skills you gain going through Stuy, your computational skills, your writing skills, enhanc[ed] vocabulary, your reading comprehension, all of those things, they tend to translate onto these exams,” he said. “Being able to think quickly [and] manage your time, those kinds of skills you develop going through Stuy, tend to translate.”

Moving forward, the administration recommends students and parents to not worry while waiting for more information to be released. “We just need to pay attention, wait for releases from [the] College Board, look for the practice materials that will come out on the College Board website, or Khan Academy, and then see where we are when the time comes,” Makris said. “What we don’t want is ninth grade families to feel stressed about this because the reality is that this is not the first time [standardized] exams have changed.”