Debuting in 2023, the digital SAT will be shorter, more concise and utilise state-of-the-art technology to improve test access, quality and delivery to students around the world. The test’s refresh will create a more equitable playing field and make testing a more favourable experience for all students.
Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid at Yale University, believes this is a win for all students – especially international applicants. “The new format will be more familiar, and the test easier to administer, more accessible and secure,” Quinlan said.
At many universities, SAT scores are a key factor in predicting and demonstrating college readiness. “We use the test score and student’s exam marks first to determine English proficiency and if the student can do the work,” he explained. “Once that answer is yes, we look at the other parts of their application.”
A March 2022 pilot of the new format received high praise from US and international students and test proctors. A vast majority (85 per cent) of the participating students found the testing experience to be a good or excellent experience.
Bisr Kaur Jauhar, a student at Strawberry Fields High School in Chandigarh, India, praised the pilot. “It was very convenient, and I was less stressed out. It definitely took away a lot of the pressure that comes with the SAT.”
Shorter passages, faster results
The test will now be shorter—around two hours rather than three—and students will have more time to answer each question. It will include shorter reading passages that reflect a broader range of topics. Calculators are now permitted throughout the entire math section and will be provided within the testing app.
Test takers will also be able to clearly see how much time is remaining to reduce the stress level while taking the test and flag test questions that may require additional time and that they want to go back to. Worrying about lost points due to stray pencil marks or improperly filled bubbles on an answer sheet will be a thing of the past.
“It was really efficient,” said Claudina Vaqueiro, a pilot participant and student at The American School Foundation of Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico. “I loved that I could easily return to questions that I had flagged.”
Adjusting to evolving needs
The student-friendly test best reflects the way students will need to work in order to be successful at universities around the world. This online shift comes at a critical time when schools all over the world are finding innovative ways to support digital learning due to the pandemic.
“This generation of students are digital natives,” said Kelly Walter, Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions for Boston University. “This is a platform they are not only familiar with but live on 24/7. I think because of that there’s going to be confidence that is built into taking this new format.”
The SAT continues to serve as a passport test opening access to global higher education institutions for international students who intend to pursue a postsecondary degree. Despite recent changes to testing policy requirements at many US universities, when surveyed, 83 per cent of students wanted the option of submitting standardised test scores for university admissions and scholarships worldwide.
“I’m looking forward to being able to tell students it will be a better experience for them,” said John Barnhill, Florida State University Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs.
Setting up students for success
All students taking the SAT will be able to use their own laptop or tablet, a school-issued device or a loaned device from the College Board.
Acknowledging access to the internet has been a constant struggle for many students during the pandemic, especially in rural and low-income areas, the digital SAT is designed to ensure students won't lose work or time if the internet goes out and they need to reconnect. Testing will continue to be proctored at secure test centres and real-time technical support will be provided in the event of any test day issues. The digital format can also easily provide accommodations to students with disabilities and special needs.
“Everything from downloading the app, to setting up our devices, to actually taking the SAT went really smoothly,” said Aidan Bimbrahw, a student at The British School New Delhi, India. “I was a lot less stressed.”
With the digital SAT, students will experience a better testing environment and be able to receive their test scores within days, not weeks. This gives them choices and ample time to decide how to utilise their scores and will provide the opportunity to retest, if needed.
Greater flexibility and security
The digital SAT will be shorter, more secure, and more flexible, which will continue to facilitate a better experience for both test takers and those who administer the test. Test takers outside the US will now have seven opportunities to take the test exam annually, rather than five. For students, this means more opportunities to identify and address areas for improvement and a greater chance of reaching their desired score.
The digital transition also means a much more secure test because each student will see a unique test form, significantly decreasing possible cancellation of tests due to security concerns.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and coordinators on the pilot highlighted the improved ease of both taking and administering the test.
“The digital SAT is efficient, easy, and most importantly convenient,” said Sudarshana Shukla, Digital SAT Pilot Test Center Coordinator at The Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai, India.
Shukla also shared that while international shipping used to be a huge pain point and a security challenge for administrators, the new format solves this problem. Administrators no longer have to securely receive, gather, distribute, or collect test books or answer papers.
“Monitoring a student's progress during the test was reassuring, and effective in reaching out to a student in case of a technical problem,” Shukla added. “The test day was hassle-free.”