By Bowie Gray-Savitt
The SAT is a form of standardized testing that has been used in many schools across the United States for 96 years. Recently, new changes have been created, altering how the test typically formats. On Tuesday, January 25th, the College Board(the organization that owns the SAT), released the adjustments they are planning to make. These changes will be implemented on exams for students in the US starting in 2024. Before then, students enrolled internationally will be introduced to the modifications as early as spring of 2023. The most significant change is that the test will now be presented in a digital format. The reason this change was so suddenly implemented is that recently there has been an increase in the elimination of the SAT. Over 1,800 universities have gone “test-optional” and removed their requirement for the submission of test scores. In the class of 2020, 2.2 million students took the SAT and in the class of 2021, 1.5 million students took the test. The SAT is transitioning to become digital to increase security by providing a unique exam for each student. With different tests, it will become impossible for students to cheat off one another. Additionally, a digital version of the test increases the adaptability of scheduling testing. Since students will no longer have the same test, there is no need to give students the test at a simultaneous time. Schools will be given almost complete control over when the exam will take place.
Another soon-to-be-altered component is the duration of the test. The reading passages are going to be shortened, bringing the time of the exam down from three hours to two. Shortening the passages allows students to focus more on the readings instead of feeling rushed and trying to find the answers as soon as possible. Calculators will also be permitted for the entirety of the test, where previously calculators were only authorized for a certain part of the math section. With online testing there will also be a timer installed in the corner of the screen, this timer will make it easier for students to pace themselves. This new version of the SAT, allows students to use their own devices, those who do not have any available device will be provided with one when necessary. Furthermore, to prevent any technical difficulties, student answers will save automatically so if they are interrupted by connection or power, their work will still be there when they return. In November 2021, the College Board administered a pilot of the digital SAT. This pilot tested both international students and after being interviewed, 80% of these students revealed they felt that the digital test was less stressful than the physical test.
Standardized testing is usually criticized as many argue that an individual’s scoring on the tests does not correlate with their academic performance in college the same way their high school grades will. Critics explain standardized testing brings an unfair advantage to those who succeed under pressure. With the new digital version of the SAT, students will be less stressed, as the test is not only shorter but also in a format they are accustomed to. Working digitally will be easier for students as most of the work they do is online. Additionally, students will be provided with a calculator for the entirety of the test, meaning students won’t second guess themselves or make small mistakes in the math section. For the reading section, there will be shorter passages, and students won’t waste time reading or struggle if they are typically slower readers. A digital SAT will contrast from the current SAT as it will be a less stressful, more comfortable experience students will benefit from.