The digital SAT: what do the changes mean for me?

Posted on 1st February 2022

The digital SAT: what do the changes mean for me?

Last week, the College Board announced some fundamental changes to the SAT that will come into effect internationally from March 2023. This will mostly have an impact on students applying to college for entry in 2024 and afterwards, so those currently in Year 11/Grade 10 and in younger years.

What’s changing?

The College Board announced the following changes:

  • Format: The SAT will be going entirely digital from March 2023 internationally, and in the US from March 2024. The test will be different for each student, drawing the questions from a question bank rather than a fixed test.
  • Length: The test will be shortened from 3 hours to 2 hours.
  • Math: There will no longer be a no calculator section of the math. Students will have access to a graphing calculator built into the math section or can bring their own.
  • Questions: These will be adaptive; the test will choose the next question dependent upon if the previous was answered correctly.
  • Reading: Passages will be shortened and simplified.
  • Results: These will be available within a few days of taking the test – so students won’t have to wait the usual 2 weeks to get their scores.

What’s staying the same?

  • Scores: the SAT will still be scored out of 1600.
  • Location: the test will be invigilated at a school or test centre, not available at home.
  • Accommodations: students will still be able to receive accommodations such as extra time on the test.

Why is this happening?

The SAT changed format completely as recently as 2016, so you might be wondering why the College Board is opting for another set of changes. The reason for this is that most colleges have become test optional due to the pandemic (with notable exceptions including Georgetown and state universities in Florida and Georgia). The ACT has also made a switch to digital delivery internationally in 2018, so once that happened it made sense that the SAT would eventually follow suit.

In an admissions landscape where test optional admissions are now the norm, it makes sense for the College Board to make the test more accessible by going digital and shortening the format. One of the major criticisms of the test has been that it represents another barrier to admission for students from underprivileged backgrounds, so the College Board is partly responding to these changes. The SAT has also had issues with test integrity in the past; making the test digital allows for variety in the questions so each student is effectively sitting their own version of the test.

What will change for me?

If you are in Year 12/Grade 11, the changes won’t affect you, as the first date the test will change format internationally is March 2023, after the 2022-23 application deadlines. We therefore recommend you keep preparing for the test you’ve been recommended (ACT or SAT) by our free online diagnostic test. If you are taking a gap year and applying in 2024 you may want to read the guidance for current Year 11 students.

If you are in Year 11/Grade 10 then the change will fall halfway through Year 12/Grade 11 for you, meaning that you might have to adjust to a different format of test halfway through the testing cycle. If you have been recommended the SAT by our SAT/ACT diagnostic but you’re in this year group, you might consider starting to prepare for the test a bit earlier so that you take a first test in August or October and are hopefully done and dusted with the test by December 2022. We have a number of intensive and weekly courses to help you prepare as well as one to one tuition. For more information see our dedicated page here: https://ueseducation.com/tuition-courses.

However, if you don’t quite meet your target score by December, don’t worry. Despite the changes mentioned above, the digital SAT will be broadly similar in content to the current format, so it shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment to switch the digital format in March 2023.

If you are in Year 10/Grade 9 then there is not too much to worry about for the moment as the changes will have happened by the time you start preparing for a test. You’re not likely to start preparing for an SAT or ACT until Summer 2023 at the earliest, by which time the new format will be in place and any teething troubles are likely to have been resolved. We’ll keep you updated on our advice through our blog posts and newsletter.

So should I take the tests?

Our advice hasn’t changed in this respect – it’s a good idea to plan to take the tests. At many highly selective colleges there is a clear correlation between students who submit good test scores and those who gain acceptance. And while there are other lots of important factors in your application and your SAT or ACT score is not likely to make the difference by itself, a good test score provides an extra data point that can significantly strengthen your college applications.

If you want some advice on preparing for the SAT or ACT then please contact our office at info@ueseducation.com.

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