SAT Test Now Fully Digital

Posted by on Mar 14, 2024 in Education, Stuff You Should Know

For the first time in the United States, students taking the SAT college entrance exam this spring will use a computer instead of paper and pencil. The test is now completely online. In the fall of 2021, the College Board (the organization that administers the SAT) tested a pilot version outside the United States. This spring is the first time students in the U.S. will use it. Some aspects of the standardized test have changed and some have remained the same.   

Student hand holding a pencil for testing exams filling out a standardized test answer sheet.
The SAT is now being offered fully digitally.

The SAT still must be taken at a testing site or at school. Students will be permitted to take the test on their own laptops or tablets, or they may use devices provided by the testing facility. The new test will take about two hours to complete. The previous test lasted about three hours.  

Advantages of a Digital Test 

Administering the test digitally allows for some significant changes in the format. The SAT is divided into a Reading and Writing section and a Math section. Each section is further divided into two modules. The new tests are adaptive, meaning that a student’s performance on the first module of the test will determine the difficulty level of the second module. For example, the better a student does on the first module, the harder the questions will be on the second module. However, those more difficult questions will also be worth more points.  

Students use an app called Bluebook to take the test. There’s a built-in timer to show students how much time remains to complete the module. The digital format allows students to use certain tools during the test such as highlighting or marking up a passage or crossing out an answer option on a multiple-choice question. The Reading passages are shorter, and each paragraph is followed by a question about the content. A built-in graphing calculator is available for the Math section, but students may also use their own calculators.  

Due to the digital format, the College Board expects test results to be returned to the students in days instead of weeks.  

Some aspects of the college admission test will remain the same. The SAT is still scored on a 1600-point scale, with 800 possible points in Math and 800 possible points in Reading and Writing. All the free practice test materials previously available through the College Board are still available for students to prepare.  

Status of College Admission Testing 

Most students taking the SAT exam do so in their junior or senior year of high school. Last year 1.9 million U.S. students took the SAT exam. The ACT is another major college entrance exam. About 1.39 million students in the United States took the ACT in 2023.  

Since the COVID pandemic, many colleges and universities have not required the SAT or other entrance exams for admission. Some schools have dropped the entrance exam requirement due to concerns about the fairness and equity of standardized testing. Universities such as Yale and Brown announced they will again require one of more of the following standardized tests: the SAT, the ACT, Advanced Placement (AP) tests, or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam results. These requirements will go into effect for students applying for the 2025-2026 academic year.   

What Do You Think? Would you prefer to take an exam online or on paper? Do you think some of the changes of the digital format will improve student performance? Why or why not?