Is the new digital SAT good? Is the new digital SAT bad? We will try to answer these questions below.
As you may know, the SAT is in the process of transitioning to a new version of the test. The process has already begun internationally, and in Spring 2024, high school students in the United States will only have the option to take the new digital SAT. In addition to being administered completely digitally, the test will have some new features that could make it a better or worse option for you, particularly in the context of extended test-optional admissions policies.
Below, we discuss some of the most significant changes to the current SAT and what they might mean for you and your college application process.
Digital: The biggest change to the traditional SAT, and the source of some of the other changes, is that the new digital SAT will be administered entirely digitally (except for students with accommodations, who can still take a paper-and-pencil version). As with other digital College Board tests, students will download a special application onto their computer (or a device borrowed from a test center), take the test digitally, and submit the scores online.
Adaptive: The digital SAT also means that the test can be adaptive, which means that the test will adjust the level of difficulty of the questions it gives you based on your performance on previous questions. Every student will be given the same first module for both the Math and Verbal portions, and then the digital exam will adapt to dictate the level of difficulty for the second module. Each section of the SAT will only adapt once.
Within each module, students can go back and check answers or skip questions, but once submitted, that module is finished. The purpose of section adaptivity on the new digital SAT is to ensure a greater level of student success by providing you with questions tailored to your level of difficulty; in this new format, each student will take a unique version of the test.
Scoring: The goal of the adaptive test is for the SAT to provide an equally accurate score with fewer questions, which means less time! The older paper test took 3 hours to complete, while the new SAT exam takes 2 hours and 14 minutes. Both the Verbal and Math portions are shorter, and there is no longer a designated Experimental section.
If you are planning to submit standardized test scores along with your college application (and even if the colleges on your list are test-optional, there are good reasons to take one of these tests!), you already have a choice between the SAT and the ACT. Further, for the moment, you also have the choice to take the paper SAT between now and next spring. So, what factors should you bear in mind as you decide how to approach your choice?
SAT vs ACT: Even before the SAT went digital, there were important differences between these two tests for high school students to keep in mind when choosing one or the other: the difference in sections, the length of time per question, the breakdown in subjects, etc. Before deciding whether you want to take the new digital SAT, spend some time with both the paper SAT and the normal ACT to figure out which test is a better fit for your knowledge, skills, and test-taking approach.
Preparation: One major concern for the new digital SAT is whether the preparation materials will be as effective for the digital version as for the paper-and-pencil version. Preparation for standardized tests like these is absolutely essential to scoring well, even if you’re a good student or a natural test-taker. But, of course, with the new test still being rolled out, we can’t be sure yet whether preparation materials for the old paper test will be equally effective.
Digital Test-Taking: Finally, it’s important to consider whether you’d be more comfortable taking a test online versus on paper. In your school assignments or other tests, which do you feel more comfortable with, if you notice a difference at all? If you know your eyes get tired looking at a screen for a long time, for instance, the new digital SAT might not be for you. Whereas if you know you’d prefer a keyboard to a pencil, then the new test could be a great option!
The role of standardized testing in college admissions has changed dramatically in recent years, and the new digital SAT is yet another wrinkle. It remains to be seen whether this change will draw more students to the SAT and away from the ACT, encourage more students to take the test in an increasingly test-optional college admissions landscape, or reshape the debate about the pros and cons of standardized testing. Until the new digital SAT arrives in full, we can’t know for sure.
However, as with all aspects of the college admissions process, the best way to approach uncertainty is with plenty of time and a good strategy. If you want an expert opinion on what these changes mean for your college application process, or anything else related to SAT prep and the admissions process, please schedule a free initial consultation with us.
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