Everything You Need To Know About The New Digital SAT

05 FEB 2023

A new era of testing is here! After a few years of controversy, the College Board is rolling out a set of changes to the SAT to make it more equitable. And the first of that is that the exam is going digital for international students. From March 2023, students outside the United States will take the exam on a computer instead of on paper. A host of other changes are also coming into effect. Here is what you can expect with the new SAT.


What is the Digital SAT?

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, recently introduced a digital version of the test in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new version of the test is taken on a computer rather than with a pencil and paper, and it is designed to be as similar as possible to the traditional paper-based SAT in terms of content and format.

The digital SAT is intended to provide a flexible testing option for students during the pandemic and to help ensure that students can take the test even if in-person testing is not possible.

Why is the SAT Changing?

The SAT has seen its fair share of challenges and controversy in the last few years. Many people criticize the exam for its irrelevance or that it favors wealthy white students over low-income and minority students. To combat these arguments, many schools chose to make the SAT optional. Testing centers closed when the pandemic hit, only increasing the issues and concerns. But thankfully, the College Board, the organization that develops and administers these tests, listened to the concerns and is making some positive changes.

Eight Ways the SAT is Changing in 2023

1. The SAT will now be digital

The SAT, PSAT, and all of the college-entrance exams in the SAT Suite are going digital.

The exam can either be taken on a computer at the testing center, or students can bring their laptops from home (although some testing centers/schools may require you to take the test on their computers only). The College Board will loan students who need access to a computer or laptop to take the SAT. If the internet goes down during the SAT, your work will be saved, and you won't lose time on the test.

The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant," said Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at the College Board. “We’re not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we’re taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible. With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs.

International students can start taking the SAT online in March 2023, US students can take the online PSAT in 2023, and the SAT in 2024. When polled, nearly 80% of high school students in a test pilot said the online SAT was less stressful and preferred it over the traditional method. Additionally, the College Board reported that all of the educators who were part of the pilot had a positive experience.

2. Scores will be reported faster

With the new exam, scores will be available just days, not weeks, after students take the exam. It currently takes between two and six weeks to get SAT scores back, and the colleges you chose for your four free score reports get them about ten days after you do. The new change means students can take the SAT later in the year and still have their scores reported before deadlines.

3. The exam will last two hours instead of three

The College Board hasn't released the exact format of the new version of the SAT, but they did announce that they're reducing a full hour of the test.

4. There will be more time per question

Again, there is not a lot of information about this change yet. Currently, students have between 47 seconds and 1 minute and 26 seconds to answer each question, depending on the SAT section, so that these averages will become longer.

5. Reading passages will become shorter

The digital test will feature shorter reading passages with one question tied to each, and passages will reflect a broader range of topics representing the works students read in college.

SAT Reading contains six passages, each about 500 to 750 words long. Each passage has about ten questions linked to it.

6. Calculators will be allowed for the entire Math section

SAT Math is currently broken into two parts: one where you can use a calculator and one where you cannot. With the digital SAT, an onscreen calculator will be available for every math question.

7. Students will have more information on education pathways

The new SAT score reports will provide information on various education pathways. They will connect students to information and resources about local two-year colleges, workforce training programs, and career options.

8. The SAT will be more secure

With the current paper and pencil SAT, if one test form is compromised, it can mean canceling administrations or scores for a whole group of students. Going digital allows every student to receive a unique test form, so it will be practically impossible to share answers, making the exam more secure.

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Four Ways the SAT Will Remain the Same

With so many exciting changes, some fundamentals about the SAT will remain the same. Here are a few of them:

  1. The test will remain on a 1,600 scale.
  2. Exams still need to be taken in a testing center, and students cannot take the exam at home.
  3. There will be a proctor to administer the test at the exam center.
  4. Students taking the SAT Suite will continue to connect to scholarships and the College Board National Recognition Programs.

Will the Digital SAT be Easier?

It is unlikely that the digital version of the SAT will be easier or harder than the traditional paper-based test. The content, format, and scoring of the digital and paper-based test versions are intended to be as similar as possible. The College Board, which administers the SAT, has stated that it is committed to ensuring that the digital test is a valid and reliable measure of college readiness, just like the traditional test.

It is important to note that the digital version of the SAT may present different challenges to students compared to the traditional test, such as getting used to taking the test on a computer or navigating the online testing platform. However, these challenges are not related to the difficulty of the test content itself.

Ultimately, whether the digital SAT is easier or more challenging for you as an individual will depend on a variety of factors, including your comfort with technology and your test-taking strategies and skills.

Are some colleges still test-optional?

Even with the new digitalized SAT, some colleges will continue making these tests optional, at least in the near future. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, more than 1,800 colleges and universities did not require students applying for the Fall 2022 semester to take the SAT or ACT. At least 1,400 schools will not require the SAT for their Fall 2023 applicants.

Final Thoughts

Despite many universities going test-optional, the SAT remains one of the most significant deciding factors for college admissions in the US. US News revealed the 31 universities with the highest combined average SAT reading and math scores for fall 2021 entrants. While the average SAT score for the class of 2021 was 1060, per the College Board, applicants admitted to schools on this list earned much higher marks. The average score for these 31 universities was 1494. Further, 83% of students surveyed by CollegeBoard said they want the option to submit test scores to colleges.

Crimson Education offers admissions support services, including one-on-one SAT tutoring from our expert tutors, many of whom scored a perfect 1600 on their SAT. While Crimson can’t guarantee admission to every college you apply to, we can help you build a robust application, including SAT prep, so you have the highest possible chance of getting into your dream school. Click the link below for more information about SAT tutoring or college admissions support.

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