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SAT is going digital! College and Career readiness is a large part of what we do as testing coordinators. As many districts coordinate college entry test administration opportunities, this move will have local implications. The new version is praised for its simplicity and accessibility, but will it resolve existing equity issues? See highlights below and start preparing:

The shift

  • Students will soon no longer take the SAT in a traditional paper format.
  • The new virtual versions of the test will start internationally in 2023 and in the U.S. in 2024.
    • Students still must sit for the exam at a school or testing center, however.
    • They will be able to use their own laptops or tablets, or one their schools or the College Board gives them.
  • Format change has simplified (shortened) the test while preserving the exam’s core structure, benefitting students and educators. 
  • College Board plans to address students’ unequal access to technology while moving the exam virtual, but skeptics doubt the changes will fix broader equity issues related to the test. 

A work in progress

  • In the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, the College Board and its competitor, the ACT, said they would craft at-home versions of their products in case social distancing was still in effect at the height of testing season. 
  • Reliable internet connection for 3 hours was a challenge.
  • Students couldn’t submit their AP exam answers during their online administration.
  • The pandemic hampered students’ testing at traditional sites.
  • Some colleges no longer required SAT or ACT scores.
  • These shifts spell trouble for the testing giants, which have hemorrhaged revenue as fewer students sat for the SAT and ACT.
  • The College Board streamlined the assessment by:trimming it from roughly three hours to two hours
    • shortening reading passages
    • scored on a 1,600-point scale 
    • “The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant” – Priscilla Rodriguez, College Board VP. 

Skepticism about the move from paper to digital

  • Will the change from paper to digital improve:
    • access to higher education 
    • test equity 
    • student stress levels
  • Critics say entrance exams are racist instruments that favor wealthy students who can pay for extensive tutoring while boxing out disadvantaged populations.
  • Digital exam also doesn’t correct problems accessing test sites amid the pandemic.
  • Does not remedy the systemic problems.
  • The digital exam got a fresh coat of paint and is “primarily a marketing ploy.”
  • Digital shift will not transform the SAT into a more accurate, fairer or valid tool for assessing college readiness.
  • There is doubt the College Board will be able to handle the complex logistics of delivering a digital test, citing security issues with international administration of the paper SAT, as well as the Varsity Blues scandal, which involved bribing test proctors

Colleage Board response

  • Exams buoy low-income students by giving them a chance to showcase their academic prowess and linking them to financial aid. 
  • The virtual test will be more secure, as each student will be given a unique form, making it difficult to share answers. 

School responses hold hope

  • Students state the SAT feels like an added incentive for scholarships and honors programs.
  • Students see it less as a high-stress test and more as an added bonus to help them shine.
  • SAT and ACT continue to evolve with the times and they’re listening, which is key, because as the demands change and as inequities reveal themselves they are making a conscious effort to meet the demands of the industry and make things more fair for students and that’s all we can ask for. – California school counselor, Josh Godinez.

Learn More HERE

College Board announcement

2 Comments

  • Kelli Langan says:

    I wonder if this means that the PSAT is close to follow. I think that is our last paper based test and for ease of administration, that would be great if we could also administer that exam online to be consistent in training with the others.

    • Dr. Elda Garcia says:

      Fair question, Kelli. Online, digital, virtual, remote testing opportunities are certainly trending. We’ll keep an eye on the topic and continue to invite our testing peers to engage in the discussion about the possibilities and potential benefits.

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