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SAT Goes Digital in 2024: Everything You Need to Know About the Changes

In a significant shift from traditional paper and pencil methods, the SAT is embracing the digital age. Starting in 2024, the SAT will no longer be administered in its physical form, marking a new era for one of the most critical exams for college admission. This move is part of a broader trend towards digitalization in education and testing, reflecting changes in how students learn and are assessed. 
SAT Goes Digital in 2024: Everything You Need to Know About the Changes
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When is the SAT Going Digital?

The College Board, responsible for the SAT, has announced that the test will be fully digital starting on March 9, 2024, setting a precedent for future administrations. This transition was preceded by a pilot digital SAT launched internationally in November 2021, signaling the beginning of the end for the traditional paper-based test.

I thought that it was an easier process than the paper SAT. It took less stamina and since there was a timer right in front of you, I thought that was very useful. I felt that it was less stressful. This format allowed me enough time to get through each section and feel confident in my answers.Emily, a student in New Jersey.

Key Changes to the SAT

The digital SAT introduces several changes aimed at improving the test-taking experience and aligning the exam with modern educational practices. Some of the notable changes include:

  • Duration: The digital test is shorter, lasting just over two hours, compared to the three hours required for the paper and pencil test.
  • Reading and Writing Section: Test takers will encounter shorter reading passages, with one question tied to each passage, making the section more manageable and less time-consuming.
  • Math Section: Calculators are now allowed on the entire Math section, offering greater flexibility in answering questions.

What Remains the Same

  • Scoring: The scoring scale remains unchanged, with scores still being reported on the traditional 1600-point scale.
  • Test Center Requirement: Despite the move to digital, students are still required to take the test at designated test centers. The test cannot be taken at home, ensuring a standardized and secure testing environment.

Adaptive Testing: A Personalized Approach

One of the most innovative features of the digital SAT is the introduction of adaptive testing, a method designed to tailor the difficulty of questions to the individual test-taker's ability level. According to the College Board, this approach allows the exam to more accurately assess a student's knowledge and skills by adjusting the complexity of questions based on the test-taker's performance in real-time.

Each test section (Reading and Writing, and Math) is divided into two equal-length parts called modules. The first module consists of a mix of questions of different difficulties. After completing the initial set of questions, the digital platform analyzes the responses to determine the level of difficulty for the subsequent module. This means that if a student excels in the first portion, the following questions will be a bit more challenging, and conversely, if a student finds the initial questions difficult, the next set will be adjusted to a more appropriate level of difficulty.

What to Bring on SAT Test Day

With the transition to a digital format, the list of items to bring on test day has also changed. Here's what you need to know:

  • Essential Items: A fully charged testing device with the Bluebook™ application installed, an up-to-date admission ticket, an acceptable photo ID, pencils or pens for scratch work, and an acceptable calculator for the Math section.
  • Nice to Have: A watch without an audible alarm, a charging cable, a bag or backpack, and a drink or snacks for the break.

What If I Don't Have a Device?

The College Board recommends borrowing a device from the school or a family member as a preferable option. If that's not possible, you can request to borrow a device straight from the College Board, provided that you submit your request at least 30 days before test day. Still, they don't guarantee the device will be provided.

The Pandemic’s Influence

It’s speculated that the decision to move the SAT to a digital platform was influenced by the global COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, more than 80% of colleges made standardized tests optional for applicants. This shift to optional SAT submissions highlighted the need for a more flexible and accessible testing model, leading to the accelerated development of the digital SAT. According to the College Board, 84% of students and 99% of staff reported a better experience with the digital SAT Suite compared to the paper SAT Suite

The move to a digital SAT represents a significant evolution in standardized testing, offering a more streamlined and flexible approach for students across the globe. As we look towards 2024 and beyond, it's clear that the SAT's digital transformation will play a crucial role in shaping the future of college admissions and educational assessment.

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About the author:

As the Head of Editorial at Learner, Mathias combines a deep passion for education with creative flair. With a diverse background and a brief stint in full-time parenting, he focuses on delivering inspiring, educational content. When not at work, he can be found knitting, writing books for children and spending time with his family.

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