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5 New and Exciting Changes to the SAT

change is coming

College Board announced some exciting new changes to the SAT exam on January 25, 2022, as part of the move to make the test a computer-based test. What other changes are they making to the current version test, when will these changes go into effect, and why are they making these changes? We will answer these questions in this article.

Change #1: The SAT Test Become Digital

College Board piloted the digital test in November 2021 in the US and found that about 80 percent of students and test takers found the digital test less stressful than the pencil and paper test and 100 percent of test administrators reported a positive experience with the new digital format. 

The digital test is also cheaper to administer because it will lead to savings from packing, sorting, or shipping test material to and fro College Board and the testing center.

With this change, the SAT exam will now be taken on a computer or tablet at a testing center not with a pencil and paper. The test will be taken at a testing center using their computers, but some testing centers may allow students bring their own personal computers or tablets. Test takers are not allowed to take the test outside a classroom or testing center.

For testing centers where students are required to bring their own computers or approved device, if students do not have a personal computer, College Board will provide one through the testing center. 

The computers used for these tests will require access to the Internet. For any Internet outage, the test will be saved and the test taker will not lose any time on the test.

Change #2: The Test is Shorter

The new test will be one hour shorter than the pencil and paper test. The duration of the test will be reduced from three hours to two hours. College Board will release the exact format for this new test in the future. Students should expect to have more time for each question in the new digital format. The time constraint is one of the biggest challenges for students taking the paper and pencil test so this change should be one that students will be excited about.

Change #3: Calculators Will Be Allowed For The Entire Math Section

In the current paper and pencil format, students are not permitted the use of a calculator for one of the two Math sections. From our experience with students, the non-calculator portion tends to pose the greatest challenge to students in the US because they have become accustomed to using a calculator in their Math classes. In the digital format, an on-screen calculator will be available for each question on the Math test. This should be a welcome change for many students because they now have access to a calculator for the entire Math test and do not have to worry about bringing a calculator to the test.

Change #4: Shorter Reading Passages

The paper and pencil SAT reading test had 4 single and 1 paired passage with a length of about 90 lines (or 500 to 750 words long) followed by 10 or 11 questions. The new digital format will have shorter reading passages with only one question tied to each passage. The passages on the test will now reflect a wider range of topics that represent the type of content students will be exposed to in their college studies.

Change #5: Get Your Scores Faster

In the current paper and pencil format, it takes between two and six weeks for students to get their scores back and the colleges they choose for their free score reports an additional ten days after the student receives their scores. College Board expects, with the new digital format, that scores will be available within days rather than weeks. This change will provide students with more options for taking the test especially high school seniors trying to meet a college application deadline. In the current format, students applying for college would not be able to use scores from the December test as part of their college application because the scores will not be released before application deadlines. 

When Will These Changes Go Into Effect?

As exciting as these changes may be for so many students, they do not go into effect immediately. According to the College Board, international test takers will start taking the digital test sometime in 2023 while those in the US will receive tests in the new format in 2024. The PSAT/NMQST and PSAT 8/9 will be delivered digitally in 2023 and the PSAT 10 will be 2024.

For students who prefer the current format of the test, there is still some time to take the test. SAT scores never expire and colleges still accept your scores if the test was taken within the last 5 years, so taking them now and getting your desired scores will not put you at a disadvantage when the digital test becomes available in the future.

Why Are These Changes Necessary?

Although there have been rumors of the SAT becoming a digital exam for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities that have led to an accelerated push for the digital version of the test. Other similar standardized tests such as the GRE, MCAT, and GMAT are already digital, so this must have added to the pressure to make the SAT digital.

Many students are also very familiar with taking digital-format tests, so the adjustment to a digital format of the SAT should be seamless. 

The current format of the SAT tends to be more stress inducing to students than an accurate measure of the student’s academic ability so giving more time for students to answer questions will be a better way to measure their knowledge. The new format will also help reduce a student’s stress level while taking the test. 

Generally, wealthier students tend to do better on the SAT test than poorer students because of their access to more resources to help them prepare for the tests. With these changes, the test will become more equitable by making it fairer for all students.

Summary of SAT Changes

The College Board announced some significant changes in January 2022. Here are the summary of the major differences between the current version and the new version of the test:

  1. The SAT test will adopt a digital format from 2023 (International) and 2024 (US)
  2. The duration of the test goes from three hours to two hours with more time allocated to each question on the test.
  3. Calculators will be allowed for the entire portion of the Math test.
  4. The Reading test will have one question per passage and each passage will be shorter.
  5. Test results will now be available within days and not weeks.

The specifics of the new test in the digital format have not been made available to the public yet.

The college acceptance criteria for SAT test scores are not expected to change. 

While the current version of the test is still in use, we can help you achieve the scores you need to attend the school of your choice.

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