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SAT is Going Digital - How to Prepare for the Change

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

The College Board, on 25th January 2022, announced that the SAT exams will go fully digital from 2024. The announcement came after the Board conducted a successful pilot of the test in November. Introducing digital SATs is a step toward making tests easily accessible for students as several colleges were compelled to go test-optional during the pandemic. Digital SATs, in the College Board’s opinion, will make the entire test-taking process less stressful for students.

The test will be conducted on a 1600-point scale as before. The digital version is expected to bring more flexibility for schools regarding when and how to administer tests as well as increased security with each student attempting a unique test form. Let’s understand the SAT digital test in more detail.

What is SAT digital?

At present, SAT is conducted in the traditional pencil and paper format. The introduction of SAT digital will improve test access, quality, and delivery to students around the world. SAT scores have remained a key factor determining the college readiness of students and this move is expected to create a more equitable playing field for students. Students can take the test through their laptops or school-issued devices. The test will be conducted at the school or test center under the supervision of administrators.

The digital SAT interface will have a student clock and built-in tools such as a calculator, highlighter, and strikethrough among others so students have access to everything they need during the test in one place. The SAT digital test will also have a reference feature with mathematical formulas. The in-built clock will help students escape performance lag problems as it makes it easier to keep track of time.

Student Taking the Digital SAT
The introduction of digital SAT will improve test access and delivery to the students around the world.

Why has SAT gone digital?

The Board’s decision to move SAT online comes at a time when educational institutions are exploring new ways to support learning amidst the pandemic situation. The digital SAT will instill confidence among today’s tech-savvy students who spend most of their time on digital platforms. The College Board intends to boost the relevancy of the test by making it both easier to take and administer.

Though numerous colleges went test-optional, a recent survey revealed that students wanted the option to submit SAT scores during admissions. Digital SAT will serve as a useful tool for students to prove their abilities beyond their achievements in school whereas top-tier colleges can use the scores to select promising students. Digital SAT reaffirms the importance of standardized tests in this post-pandemic era as it evens out the disparities and variations observed in different schools and grading systems.

The College Board’s objective is not just to put the SAT on a digital platform. By releasing the digital version of the test, it aims to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by digital platforms.

Schools will now have more flexibility regarding when and how to administer the exam and students will have better access to the test and option to submit the scores if they want to. Test cancellations due to internal or external factors can be avoided with digital SATs.

However, there has been some criticisms around the test’s validity and equity as some people think that shifting the SAT to a digital platform isn’t the solution to make it a more accurate or fairer tool to assess college readiness.

What are the changes in the digital SAT?

Digital SATs promise greater security and flexibility in conducting the test. Below mentioned are the major changes one needs to be aware of while taking the digital SAT:

1. Test length will be shortened

The digital version will have a shorter test with the test length reduced from the usual three hours to two hours. Students can expect more concise questions with only one question assigned for each reading passage. While the pencil and paper format has lengthy reading passages, the digital format will feature shorter versions of reading passages. With shortened tests, students will now have more time per question.

2. Calculators to be permitted for the entire Math section

The current SAT has two sections within the Math section - one with calculator and one without calculator. However, the digital format will permit the use of calculators for both the sections. Students can make use of the calculator feature embedded within the digital SAT interface or bring their own graphing calculator.

Calculator for SAT Math
Calculators will be permitted for the entire Math section on digital SAT.

3. Test scores will be delivered faster

With the traditional tests, students have to wait for weeks to get the test results. The digital version ensures the test scores will be delivered in a few days so students can take quicker decisions about colleges and admissions. The reports will include percentile rankings and a breakdown of the score. Information about colleges and scholarships can also be accessed easily under the new digital version.

Digital SAT is more about testing students’ college readiness as opposed to speed and endurance. The Reading section in digital SAT will consist of passages based on humanities and sciences with a focus on contemporary issues in finances, economics, and the environment. With calculators permitted for the entire Math section, students can expect more straightforward questions similar to the ACT and less wordy math problems.

The digital SAT will not be a take-home exam and students need to be present at the test center with their own laptop or a school-issued device. Students can also borrow a device from the College Board if they can’t arrange a laptop. The decision to conduct tests at the test center instead of home was made after the College Board conducted trials of at-home tests. Taking tests at home requires uninterrupted internet connection for two hours which cannot be guaranteed all the time. Test centers hence proved to be a more feasible and fairer option as all the students will be tested under the same conditions.

The major advantages of the digital SAT is that it will ensure enhanced security and eliminate logistics challenges encountered during the traditional test. Test administrators don’t have to worry about organizing and shipping test materials safely and students don’t have to deal with issues such as bringing wrong pencils and calculators or incorrect bubbling. Digital SAT is adaptive which means the level of test difficulty will vary for each student depending on how they attempt each question resulting in a unique test form. Digital SAT also offers flexibility with test dates which will benefit students taking tests in remote locations.

How can I prepare for the test?

The test content will remain the same for the digital SAT and students need to hone their Reading, Writing, and Math skills as usual. Here are a few tips that will come in handy to prepare for the digital SAT:

Reading: Read a wide range of humanities and science topics. Reading the editorial columns will serve as a good start to polishing your reading skills. Students should try to form their own opinions gradually while expanding their knowledge with daily reading.

Writing: Familiarize yourself with all grammar and punctuation rules by taking enough practice tests. Test takers should pay attention to every grammatical detail as SAT often confuses students by slipping simple grammatical errors.

Math: Applying formulas correctly is integral to obtaining good scores in this section. Students should memorize all formulas and also focus on geometry and trigonometry questions asked in the ACT to answer questions more efficiently.

Students can seek guidance from private tutors or join professional SAT coaching classes to prepare for the test. Enrolling in an online self-paced course can be a cost-effective option for those who would like to prepare on their own with good materials. Prior to appearing for the final test, students need to get accustomed to the digital version. Practice tests will help students deal with the physical strain of staring at the screen for two long hours. The College Board is soon set to release digital tests on their website for students to practice. Students can meanwhile practice ACT online to get a fair idea of what digital SAT might look like.

Wrapping up

Though several colleges have adopted test-optional policies recently, students still want the option to submit standardized test scores as they are considered a great leveler across different grading systems. Given the improved ease of both taking and administering the test, we can expect an increase in the number of test-takers. The new digital format solves the security challenges faced by administrators while receiving, collecting, or distributing test books and answer papers. Digital SAT will also help reduce incidents of test cancellations due to security reasons. Students on the other hand don’t have to deal with the hassle of carefully filling out bubbles with a pencil as one wrongly filled bubble will translate to lost points.

Attaining good scores on SAT is not a cakewalk. While digital SAT may make things a bit easier for students, preparation for the exam should not be compromised at any cost. Prestige Institute is one of the frontrunners in providing SAT/ACT coaching services for students. Equipped with in-person and online test prep facilities, we help students acquire relevant strategic skills to obtain desired scores. We have an individualized care system developed with efficient use of student data so students gain access to personalized sessions suited to their needs.

Take a free level test or get a free consultation to start preparing for your dream college!

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