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The New Digital SAT: What you need to know


Early this year College Board announced that it plans to introduce a new digital SAT in the United States in 2024. So, no more filling in bubbles or waiting for proctors to collect the exam sheets, instead students will take the exam on their personal laptops, or one supplied by the testing center. Here is what we know so far about the digital SAT:


Format and Length

The new digital test will be adaptive, which changes the level of question difficulty for subsequent questions based on a student's performance. Each subject will be divided into two sections and based on the student’s performance on the first section an algorithm will produce an appropriate level of difficulty for the second section.

From start to finish, the whole test day will be shorter for both students and educators. The length of the exam will be reduced from three hours to two. And due to the digital format, proctors will no longer have to deal with packing, organizing, and shipping test materials. It is anticipated that high schools and testing centers will have more flexibility in scheduling exam dates because of the digital format.


Content

College Board intends to update the content of the exam and make it more student-friendly and relevant. Questions are also going to be more concise. For instance, lengthy reading passages are set to be replaced with shorter versions. Only one question, rather than multiple, will be tied to each reading.

The current SAT divides the math section into two parts: a non-calculator and a calculator portion. But as part of the changes, a calculator will be allowed for the entire math segment. Students can either bring their own graphing calculator or use one that's embedded into the exam, which experts say reduces test day barriers.


Scoring

The exam will remain on the 1600 scale, and it is expected that students will receive their scores in a matter of days as opposed to the weeks. However, students will need to adjust to scoring that weights the adaptive section based on difficulty. It is unclear as to how College Board intends to score and produce comparable scaled scores with adaptive content however, of greater concern is how scores will be impacted when combining the sections. A student who scores poorly in the first section will likely score better in the second section which has been adapted to reduce the difficulty. In contrast a high scoring student is likely to miss more questions on the second section because of the increase in difficulty. Our concern is how will the 200-800 score per section will fairly reflect these differences for all test takers.


There continue to be a lot of unknowns about the new digital exam including the reception it will receive from colleges particularly in the era of test-optional admissions. Also, how will the new digital format scoring compare to ACT scores. ACT’s current digital offering is the exact same length and content as the paper exam and is only offered through participating schools but is growing in popularity.


In addition, it is anticipated that the new test will be better able to accommodate students with learning differences depending on their individual needs. However, without further information from College Board about the changes it is difficult to assess how this will impact students with testing accommodations.

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