On January 25, 2022, College Board announced its plan to roll out a digital version of the SAT. What’s more, this version of the test will usher in several changes, including a re-design of the test’s overall structure. Full details on the digital exam can be found at SAT.org/digital, but here’s what we know so far.
When Does College Board Expect to Roll Out This Exam?
The digital SAT is expected to make its first appearance in spring 2023 for students testing outside of the United States. Most U.S. students, on the other hand, should expect their first official encounter with the new format in the fall of 2023 on the PSAT assessments (PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT), with digital SAT examinations following in the spring of 2024. Therefore, these changes should primarily concern students in the class of 2025 or later.
How Will This Change Affect the Administration of the Test?
The digital SAT will still be administered in schools or at test centers — not at home as the AP exams were in 2020 — with greater flexibility for school districts in choosing when to hold tests. Students will be allowed to take the exam on a personal, school issued, or College Board provided device (either a laptop or tablet), using a secure testing app which students will be instructed to download prior to the exam. The application will feature an integrated graphing calculator program and timer to help students as they work their way through the exam.
Along with a new digital interface, the test will also see some substantial changes. Firstly, the exam is reported to be both shorter in duration — clocking in at two hours as opposed to its current three hour runtime — and offer more time per question. Additionally, the digital SAT will see the elimination of the test’s No-Calculator Section and a shift to shorter combined reading-and-writing section with only 1-2 questions per passage, as well as a move towards shorter more streamlined questions throughout the exam. Perhaps the biggest change, however, will be the introduction of section-adaptive testing. In section-adaptive testing, as found on the GRE exam, students’ results from the first portion of the test determine the difficulty of future sections, meaning a student who does well on the first section of the exam will receive a more difficult (and presumably more valuable) selection of questions on the next section than would a student who did not perform as well on the first section.
In addition to changes to the test itself, there will also be some changes in when students should expect to receive their results and what information they will find on those score reports. As a result of the test’s digital nature, students’ scores will be available much more quickly than they are on the current paper and pencil version of the exam — a matter of days as opposed to weeks. Further, score reports will no longer contain section subscores, nor will the QAS (Question and Answer Service) — a valuable study tool which allowed students to purchase a copy of their exam for select dates along with their answers — be available on the digital version of the exam
What’s Staying the Same?
Despite these changes, much of the testing experience will remain the same for students. Although College Board has announced some changes to the presentation of the materials, the content students can expect to see will remain largely unchanged: the exam will continue to test students on the same reading comprehension, writing and language, and math skills that its current iteration does. Further, College Board has announced that there will be no change to the scoring scale nor any concordance necessary between the digital exam and the current paper and pencil test, meaning that scores on future exams are expected to hold the same weight as they would at present.
While there’s still much we do not know about the digital SAT, we at Method Learning are committed to keeping you up to date as we learn more about what to expect. More information will likely become available later this year as College Board plans to release its first official practice material for the digital SAT in fall 2022.