After months of speculation about digital testing, College Board announced today that they will be moving the SAT to a fully digital version beginning in 2023. International SAT test-takers will use the digital version in March 2023, those taking the PSAT will go digital in Fall 2023, and all SAT administrations will be digital by the spring of 2024. The ACT has also suggested that their test will go digital in the very near future.
How will the digital format differ from the current exam?
Check out the table below for a comprehensive look at the differences between the two formats.
Does this change test prep strategy?
From a test prep perspective, many of the strategies students have been using for the PSAT and SAT will remain relevant and valuable on the digital platform. Reading passages will still be focused on finding the main idea, the writing and language section will still require good editing skills, and the math section will still require careful reading and an ability to decode the SAT’s question wording.
What will change is the emphasis on hitting the “easy” questions. Like the digital GRE, the SAT will now be adaptive, meaning that if a student does well with the first round of questions in a section, the subsequent questions will become more challenging. College Board believes that this will give a clearer picture of a student’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as a more complete understanding of a student’s college readiness. Because of this new adaptive quality of the test, it will be even more important than before that students avoid making simple mistakes on easy-to-medium questions so that they have the opportunity to address more difficult ones that could set them apart.
Another slight difference in strategy will come in the reading section. With short passages as part of the new format, students will be able to process through less information to understand the main idea. However, as with the GRE and older versions of the SAT, while shorter passages are quicker to digest, the questions can often be trickier or more convoluted, so it will be even more important for students to read passages, questions, and answers carefully.
Timing also looks to be a positive change in the new format, as students will receive more time per question, according to the College Board. This should be a boost for students who struggle with their timing, particularly in the math sections. The addition of a countdown timer at the top of the screen should also help students keep track of their pacing, taking another responsibility off their shoulders–though they will still need to know how much time they should be spending per passage, section, etc.
In sum, the changes to the SAT, while game-changing, should be a net positive for students. They will still benefit from expert preparation, but the test-taking experience should prove to be less stressful and more responsive.