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Pencils Down: Students Discuss Future of Digital SAT

February 14, 2022



On Jan. 25, College Board announced that the SAT would be shifting to a digital format, among other changes. The new test will be implemented in spring of 2024. Students across the globe have varying opinions on the alterations. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Over the past few decades, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has played a substantial role in the extensive college admissions process. It’s rare to come across a high school student who isn’t somewhat stressed about the prospect of facing this assessment. From the back and forth between a 2400 and a 1600-point scale to the addition and later removal of the optional essay, the SAT has been altered countless times to fit the constantly changing curriculums and expectations. On Tuesday, Jan. 25, College Board announced significant changes to this widespread test that will be slowly executed over the next few years. The most prominent one is the shift from a paper-and-pencil test to a digital one, which has caused uproarious feedback from students. The College Board will implement several other alterations as well.   

“We’re not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform—we’re taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible,” vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board Priscilla Rodriguez said in a press release. 

The test will take less time—two hours as opposed to three. Shorter reading passages will cover a wider range of topics and have one question tied to each, and the non-calculator section has been cut to allow calculators on the entire Math section. The test will also be adaptive, providing every student with an introductory set of questions and then adjusting the difficulty to align with their performance level. 

So who exactly will be affected by this? The class of 2023 will either be disappointed (if they like the prospect of a digital test) or elated (if they prefer the paper version), to learn that the digital SAT will be implemented in U.S. schools and test centers in spring 2024. Because most students take the SAT for the first time in the spring of their junior year, the class of 2025 will be the first to take a fully digital exam. 

To gather student opinions about the changes to the SAT, The Horizon conducted a survey over email that garnered 168 responses over two days. Although the results do not represent the entire student body, many held strong opinions about each alteration. 

The students who said they would most likely take the digital SAT maintained a generally positive stance on the changes. More than half of these students rated the effectiveness of the new changes a “four” or “five”. “As long as the transition from a physical test to a virtual one is smooth (i.e. we are given all the usual commodities of a physical test such as a writing workspace) then I am fine with it being taken via computer,” one student said. “If the adaptive questions are weighted accordingly, then I love the changes,” another student added. 

It’s important to note, however, that the majority of the students who said they would take the digital SAT also said they had never taken the paper-and-pencil version before. This indicates that they may not have a standard to compare the new test to, which explains why they didn’t have such a vehement opinion on the changes. 

The adaptive test questions were one of the most debated topics in the survey results. “I feel like the smart adapting isn’t fair because it’s supposed to be a standardized test, and making questions harder if you get them right doesn’t make sense,” one student said. Some students who will be graduating before the digital test is implemented also felt they had been cheated. “Why did they not make the changes effective immediately? It’s completely unfair to withhold these changes with the class of 2023.” 

Many schools, including Harvard and the University of California (UC) system, have already given students the option to withhold their SAT scores from their applications. A few students took their opinion a step further by arguing that the new changes are further cementing the SAT as an outdated measure of aptitude. “I feel like the changes to the SAT will make colleges look at and care about SAT scores less overall,” one student said. “The point of the SAT test is being destroyed in my opinion.” 

Overall, students are split in their feelings about the digital SAT. While some have readily accepted the changes, others have serious doubts about the future of the new test. Students around the globe will have to wait and hope that the digital SAT can effectively provide similar opportunities for their futures.

To learn more about the digital SAT Suite of Assessments, visit the College Board website. 

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About the Writer
Photo of Aanika Hirode
Aanika Hirode, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Class of 2023

When I'm not panicking about academics, I spend a concerning amount of time watching Gilmore Girls and trying to figure out the release...

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