fully digital SAT

Transitioning to Digital

The news that shook the world of educational counseling this week was the College Board’s decision to transition the SAT to a fully digital experience, a change set to make its debut in the United States in 2024. Therefore, current 9th graders in the class of 2025 will be the first students to take a crack at the standardized test’s newest format. Here at Moxie, we pride ourselves on keeping you up to date with the admission landscape’s latest twists and turns so that you can be confident in your path toward finding an educational home that is right for you. Therefore, in this article, we’ll break down some of the most important details of the College Board’s recent announcement and reflect on how they might affect the next generation of test takers. 

Major Changes in the SAT

First, let’s summarize the major changes that are to be made so that we can have a better idea of what we’ll be getting into. The College Board states that the new SAT will be section-adaptive, meaning that each subject on the test will be divided into two sections, and the second iteration of a subject will be weighted differently depending on how a student performs on the first iteration. If a student answers a lot of questions wrong in the first section of a particular subject, an algorithm will make the second section in that subject easier. However, easier questions will be weighted differently on the SAT’s familiar 1600 scale than harder questions. The College Board claims that the SAT’s transition to being section-adaptive will allow a student’s score to be calculated more efficiently. It will also allow the new test to be shortened to two hours, down an hour from its less efficient paper ancestor.

The New Math Section of the SAT

Another important change is that the College Board will revamp the content of the SAT on their new digital test. Now, all questions in the Math section will be calculator-accessible, with a handy on-screen calculator built into the test. In turn, long reading passages with banks of related questions will become a thing of the past, as the new SAT will exclusively feature short passages with one question per passage. In theory, these types of reading questions will be easier on the attention spans of our new generation of test-takers in addition to being easier to iterate through based on the test’s shiny new algorithm.

Ensuring Accessibility

In order to ensure accessibility, students will not be allowed to take the new SAT at home. Instead, the test will be issued at school. However, students will be allowed to use their own computers and tablets as alternatives to those provided by the testing center. While the College Board has certainly made the more equitable decision by keeping the SAT out of private homes, there remains an implicit advantage in this new format for students who have more access to technology, both in the realm of test-prep and based on the fact that students with personal computers and tablets will feel more comfortable with their device while taking the test. That being said, this is not a major difference from the equity gap already implicit in the current paper version of the SAT. Additionally, the more flexible online test should lend itself to more frequent scheduling. The College Board is already encouraging schools to administer the SAT during the school day, a change which could boost both the accessibility and equity of the testing experience. With this more flexible test style in place, students will be able to get their scores back in a matter of days rather than weeks, begging the question of how often students will be able to take multiple exams in direct succession, a process that would be a lot easier on the minds of test-takers who have endured months of arduous prep.

The Digital SAT: Special Accommodations

However, in the early stages of this announcement’s impact on the educational landscape, looming questions still remain. For instance, the College Board intends to make a clean break from paper exams with a few exceptions for students with certain learning differences. The nature of these exceptions and the way that they will be handled, however, has not been clarified. Therefore, it is yet to be seen whether students who take the SAT with special accommodations will be adversely or positively affected by the test’s impending changes. Additionally, switching the test to a fully online environment within brick-and-mortar school sites presents unique challenges for under-privileged and homeschooled students alike. The technology gap of students coming from impoverished families will loom large in the SAT’s new era. Similarly, according to a recent article by Compass Education Group, homeschooled students (a demographic that has grown wildly during the Pandemic Era alone) will be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to testing accessibility and comfort.

The Changing Educational Landscape

How will the College Board attempt to limit these inequities and make the new version of their SAT accessible to all students? And, in turn, how will the ACT respond to this earth-shattering announcement from their competitor? These questions, and many more, have yet to be answered. Here at Moxie, we’re looking forward to helping you find the answers to your own unique questions as the educational landscape of the U.S. undergoes continual change. Day to day, hour by hour, we’re here working for you. Please contact us with any questions you may have.