Written by: Jon Piliser
Collegeboard made an announcement just a few days ago that sent shockwaves through the college admissions landscape: the SAT is getting re-designed. Although there’s still a lot that has yet to be revealed, here’s what we know so far about the new test:
Students might be happy to hear the new test is considerably shorter, shifting from the current 3 hour exam to now just over 2 hours total.
The most dramatic change is that the SAT (and PSAT) are shifting to an entirely digital format. Students can take the test on their own personal computer or a computer from school. If students do not have access to a device, Collegeboard has pledged to provide one.
The SAT will be designed to “autosave” – in other words, your progress will not be lost if you get disconnected or your computer shuts down. You’ll simply need to log back in and you can resume where you left off.
By ditching the pencil-and-paper format, the SAT will now offer unique exams to each student in a given test center. This will help ensure a secure test environment, as the person sitting next to will be looking at different questions.
Despite the digital format, students must still take the exam at school or an approved test center – the new SAT cannot be taken from home.
Not much has been revealed yet about changes to the content of the exam. The SAT acknowledged that they would be moving away from word problems in the math portion. Students will also be permitted to use a calculator on all of the math questions (currently, students can only use a calculator on one portion of the math section, or about half of the total math questions).
The reading section will see a shift away from long passages; instead, students will have just one question per text. Otherwise, Collegeboard has claimed that the existing skills and concepts being measured will largely stay the same.
So who will be impacted by the new test? Students who are currently in 10th-12th grade should plan on taking the existing (older) version of the test – these changes won’t be relevant before you’ll want to sit for your first exam. But students in 9th grade or middle school should expect to take the new, shorter version of the SAT before they graduate.
The new test will be introduced internationally next year (2023). Next year’s PSAT will also be digital, so 2022 will be the final paper version of the exam. The new digital SAT will then become available in the U.S. starting in 2024.
While most colleges have yet to announce their policies, if you end up taking both the old and new versions of the test we would expect that universities will accept either version until the old test is phased out. So if you’re not pleased with your score, and the new test becomes available before you start applying to colleges, it might be worth giving the new SAT a try.
Why did Collegeboard redesign the SAT? We can only speculate, but it’s likely a response to the growing trend among colleges to adopt a test-optional approach to admissions. By making the test shorter and more convenient, they may hope to ensure that testing continues to play a role in college decision making. It’s also possible that Collegeboard is concerned about losing market share to their rival exam the ACT, which has continued to grow in popularity relative to the SAT.
As practice tests for the new SAT get released, we’ll continue to share any more specific insights about how the test is changing and what kind of approach you’ll want to take to ensure that you earn the score you are aiming for!