It’s seemed like an inevitable move for a few years now, and this week College Board made it official: the SAT is scrapping the paper and going fully digital. Instead of meticulously filling in bubbles with a #2 pencil, students will be taking the entire exam on a computer or laptop. So, what’s this new digital SAT going to look like, when is it rolling out, and what other changes can we expect to see?
Why is it changing?
There are a few reasons College Board has cited for this big change. First, a digital SAT is easier to administer. Shipping and storing paper tests is no small feat; by administering the test digitally, there will be increased flexibility regarding exam scheduling and locations. Additionally, a digital format means students will get their scores back in a few days, rather than a few weeks.
However, most schools have already decided to go test-optional. Some have even decided that they won’t consider scores at all in the admissions process. As Sara Harberson bluntly puts it, “the test’s evolution represents a ‘Hail Mary’ for the organization who is desperately trying to stay relevant in a world that has already proven it can live without a test.”
The digital SAT is debuting in the U.S. in 2024, which means the class of 2025 will be the first to take it. However, students will get a taste of this new format via a digital PSAT coming fall 2023.
The biggest change that students will note is the new test’s length. The digital SAT will be a two-hour exam, rather than the three-hour version students take now.
Another major change is that the digital SAT is going to be adaptive. Each subject will have two sections. A student’s performance on the first section will determine what questions they receive in the second section. In other words, a student who does well on the first section will get more difficult questions in the second. A student who does poorly on the first section will receive easier questions.
There are a few noteworthy changes in content, too. In the math section, will be no longer be any “no calculator allowed” questions. (I guess they realized those were pointless in a world of iPhone calculators.) In the reading section, there will no longer be lengthy passages with several follow-up questions. Instead, all passages will be short, with only one related question.
The new digital SAT will still give students a score out of 1600, but much of the pertinent scoring info is yet to be announced. Because the test is adaptive, students who perform brilliantly on the first section will then get more difficult questions, meaning they’ll likely miss more. Students who perform poorly on the first section will get easier questions, meaning they’ll likely rack up more points. How will the varying levels of difficulty be fairly reflected in the score? I guess we will all wait and see.
If you’re a freshman in the class of 2025, you might be a bit terrified by these abrupt changes to the SAT coming your way. Don’t be! We’ve helped hundreds of students dominate the paper SAT, and we’ll do the same with the digital version.