The College Board announced a new SAT that will be shorter, digital, and supposedly less stressful by 2024. In this blog, we’ll talk about how students will be affected.
1. All Digital
No more worrying about No. 2 pencils or filling in bubble sheets! The new SAT will be all digital. Also, according to College Board, students will take the test on laptops or tablets. These can be owned by the students, a school, or provided by College Board. This new format could lead to some cool new additions, like a built in calculator called Desmos as well as a built-in timer.
2. Shorter in Length
The new SAT will be 2 hours, as opposed to the current ACT which clocks in at 2 hours 55 minutes, and the current SAT which is 3 hours. However, we don’t yet know if that time includes breaks.
3. Different Forms
By using a big database of questions, the new SAT will feed you different questions than your neighbors. Not only will this help eliminate cheating from looking at your neighbor’s test, but schools may offer the test more often. They no longer have to worry about everyone sitting to take the test on the same day, at the same time.
The negative consequences of this change include people coming up with new, creative ways to cheat. Additionally, it will hurt the transparency of the test. After taking the tests, students may not get to see their scores right away. Due to the new type of test, College Board may recycle questions to use in the future, preventing past test-takers from looking through the test to see what questions they missed. This also raises questions about how the grading of the test is fair if you’re pulling from a database of questions. This means not everyone will have the same questions on their test.
4. Adaptive Format
The new test will be section-by-section adaptive. This likely means everyone will start with the same level of questions in the first section. After you complete that section, the College Board will figure out how much you got wrong, and then base the next section of the test on that result. For example, if you miss a lot of questions, you’ll get an easier second section. However, if you ace the first section, your next section will have more difficult questions.
There are some drawbacks to the adaptive format. For example, if you’re exceptional at pre-calculus, but your pre-algebra needs some work, then you may never get to a section with pre-calculus because you keep getting stuck and missing the pre-algebra. But for the most part, an adaptive format allows College Board to speed up the test and still be pretty accurate for most students. However, it will add some opacity to the scoring. You can’t simply calculate your score based on how many questions you miss. Easier questions have less weight than more difficult questions.
5. New Content
In terms of new content, College Board is shortening the reading passages and there will only be one or two questions per passage. There will also be a wider range of topics covered by the passages. Potentially, we can also look forward to less wordy math questions.
Why Did the SAT Change?
COVID-19 has ushered in a new era of test-optional admissions policies. Approximately 90% of the top 250 ranked universities have made their admissions policies test-optional. Because of this, fewer students are taking the exam, and even fewer are submitting the exam to schools. As the College Board points out, 83% of students want the chance to submit their scores. A poll on our own YouTube channel showed that only 17% of our audience wanted schools to go fully test-blind.
Because of our current climate, the number of SAT test-takers has declined. 2.2 million students who graduated in 2020 took the SAT, but only 1.5 million students who graduated in 2021 took the SAT. So far for the Class of 2022, 1.7 million students have taken the test. When you lose half a million customers, you might think you need to change something.
As a result, College Board is making the SAT look more attractive. It makes sense for them to cater more towards students and high schools, as opposed to colleges. They have made the test easier to take, easier to administer, and less stressful. Also, the new use of technology will ideally be to the benefit of students.
What This Means For You
If you’re currently a freshman in January 2022, you are the first class to be subjected to this exam. You will have to take a PSAT your junior year in this new digital format. You will then take the SAT in this same format when you are a junior or senior. If you have already started studying the old version of the test in order to make National Merit Finalist level, then we recommend you try to take the old version of the test, including the PSAT, a few times before things transition.
If you haven’t spent a lot of time studying, or you have no plans to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, then we recommend you take the ACT. Because there is already a ton of prep material, and we know exactly what to expect, you can take the ACT without worrying about being the guinea pig for a brand new test.
If you’re currently a sophomore or above in January 2022, and you’re a student in the US, you don’t have to worry at all about these changes. If you are a sophomore, and you are an international student, then we also recommend you take the ACT. College Board will be rolling out the new SAT internationally in 2023. Because of the technical glitches on the first computerized ACT back in 2018, it may be safer to stick with the ACT just in case the new SAT will still be working out kinks when it’s released internationally.
If you’re naturally very good at taking standardized tests, you may consider taking both tests. If a good number of more competitive students switch over to the ACT due to more reliable test prep material, there may be less serious competition on the SAT. Another strategy is to take the new exam knowing that it may be slightly easier due to less competition.
If you would like to hear more on this topic from Brooke, check out her guest appearance on the podcast “Tests and the Rest.” Check it out here!