Colleges and universities

The SAT Will Go Fully Online—and Take Just Two Hours

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On Tuesday, the College Board announced that the SAT will be taken digitally beginning in 2023 for international students and beginning in 2024 for U.S.-based students. The digital SAT was first piloted in Nov. 2021 and College Board says 80% of students who participated in the pilot found it to be less stressful. 

"The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant," says Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president at the College Board, in a statement. "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."

The new digital test will still be scored out of 1600 but will be shorter and should take two hours instead of three. Organizers say this will give test-takers more time per question and that new shorter reading passages will cover a wider range of topics. 

Calculators will now be allowed on the entire math section and students and educators should get scores back in days, instead of weeks. No. 2 pencils will, of course, no longer be necessary. 

Representatives for College Board are optimistic that the changes will improve the test experience and make cheating more difficult. "With the current paper and pencil SAT, if one test form is compromised it can mean canceling administrations or canceling scores for a whole group of students," reads the press release. "Going digital allows every student to receive a unique test form, so it will be practically impossible to share answers."

The changes come as the test-optional movement has gained momentum. Following the 2019 Varsity Blues scandal, many questioned the advantages that wealthy students benefit from throughout the college application process, including around standardized testing. And during the pandemic, test-optional policies were adopted by a wide range of colleges and universities.

The Common Application reports that the share of colleges that require standardized test scores decreased dramatically from about 55% during the 2019-2020 academic year to just 5% during the 2021-2022 academic year.

"In a largely test-optional world, the SAT is a lower-stakes test in college admissions," says Rodriguez. "Submitting a score is optional for every type of college, and we want the SAT to be the best possible option for students."

Still, some say the changes may not be enough, pointing to research that has repeatedly found that wealthy students and white students earn higher SAT scores compared to their low-income and Black peers. 

"We should be eliminating standardized testing… We're in favor of open admissions policy," says Braxton Brewington, press secretary for The Debt Collective, a union organization that represents student debt holders and advocates for students. "This sounds like a tweak to make things better but there's still a problem when we have standardized testing that has been proven to have racist results."

In the announcement, College Board stressed that the organization is "working to address inequities" especially regarding access to technology.

College Board says if a student does not have a personal or school-issued laptop or tablet, College Board will provide devices to use. 

Furthermore, "If a student loses connectivity or power, the digital SAT has been designed to ensure they won't lose their work or time while they reconnect."

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