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SAT Goes Digital! - Everything You Need To Know

Overview

Ah, the dreaded standardized tests! Why are they important again? Shouldn’t school grades suffice?

And what exactly is the difference between the two?

Approximately, accounting for 30% of the U.S. college admissions criteria, standardized tests help

colleges establish parity between students applying from different countries, boards and across various

streams of education. While you may hear mentions of US colleges going test-optional since the

pandemic, putting the choice on the student to submit test scores or not, on average 60-70% of admits

to the top 50 US universities did submit test scores on their application. Hence, to submit a competitive

application, you should definitely plan on taking the SAT.

SAT scores also help show the cognitive ability and college readiness of the students. It also helps

enhance support for your college application. For instance, during the 11th grade, if you struggled with a

few subjects leading to a low GPA, standardized tests like SAT help redeem yourself in your applications.

Lastly, the SAT also helps in examining your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Preparing for the

SAT will help you hone these skills which will benefit you not only during college but also in life.


SAT’s going Digital?

In 2022, College Board announced that SAT will be transitioning from a paper-pencil format to a digital

format from 2023 (internationally, in the US this will roll out in 2024). In November 2021, the College

Board conducted a pilot version of the digital SAT. Their pilot program across schools internationally

showed it to be 80% less stressful than the paper-pencil exam. Educators also agreed to its ease of

administering.


What's the difference?

With major parts of the test remaining the same, there are significant changes in the way students

attempt the test.

​Factor

​Digital SAT

Written SAT

Duration

2 Hours

3 Hours

Number of Attempts

7 attempts

5 attempts

Pattern: Reading and Writing

Short passages, one question for each passage

Longer passages, with multiple questions

Pattern: Mathematics

Built-in Desmos Calculators Present

Calculators allowed for only

specific sections

Results

Receive results in a few days

Receive results in a few weeks

Testing Centers

More available testing centers

Less available test centers

Format

Section Adaptive Test

​Static Test


What stays the same?

A. How students study for the test

B. The content

C. How students are scored

D. How colleges will use the score


Advantages of the Digital SAT

A. Adaptive nature that adjusts to determine student’s overall level

B. Greater flexibility and security

C. Increased availability to a large number of students

D. Students are able to flag questions and revisit them later


The Game Changer - Adaptive Nature

The adaptive nature of the SAT is perhaps the most dramatic change ahead is the adaptive testing model

the new exam will follow.

For most high school students, the digital SAT will be the first adaptive test they'll take and will require

them to adjust their usual test-taking strategies. The Adaptive Nature of the SAT calibrates the students

level of performance in the moment to quickly zero in on a score. The College Board will continue to

assign a score out of 1600 - despite shortening the exam duration along with lesser questions.

Here’s how it will work:

A. Each section will be split into two modules - the diagnostic module to gauge your level and the

easier/harder module in the second half depending on your performance in the first.

B. Your performance in module 1 will determine the difficulty level in module 2. If you perform

well, you’ll see the harder questions.


On the downside, this could be seen as a challenge for students who need time to warm up and find

their groove in the beginning. But on the positives, these aren't new challenges and will be easily

adaptable. Students will just need to re-strategise their studying tactics. Moving forward, practice tests

will be important opportunities for students to become comfortable with the adaptive, two-module

format.


Conclusion


Standardized testing continues to remain ever-important in the US college undergraduate admissions

process. Change and iterations have always been part of the process for these tests that evolve and

adapt to the time and the needs of students. The change has been a long-time coming for the SAT and

College Board has effectively absorbed feedback from test takers and data from the past few years - the

result is a shorter, easier, more student-friendly, leading to more test-takers and submitters overall.

Win-win-win.

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