May 12, 2023

The Digital SAT: Frequently Asked Questions

Last year, the College Board announced a major change to the SAT, one standardized test used for college admissions at most US colleges and universities. After several small tests around the country, the SAT would go digital.

Of course, this change has invited questions from students and parents about the process and how this might affect them. Below, we try to answer a few questions to give you the guidance you need to succeed.

What is the Digital SAT?

The Digital SAT is an exam offered by the College Board used by many universities to determine entrance into college, and simply put is a digital version of the standard SAT. It has three major sections—reading, writing and language, and math—and takes about 180 minutes to complete. It has traditionally been conducted as a multiple choice test with pencil and paper prior to the digital SAT.

How important SAT scores are varies among schools, though many schools have declared themselves test optional in recent years. Others often ask for ACT scores instead of SAT scores (That said, we always encourage students to continue to work on test improvement because it may be required for certain programs or scholarship.)

How Has the SAT Evolved to the Digital SAT?

In January 2022, the College Board announced it would be moving to a digital system to, in the words of College Board vice president Priscilla Rodriguez, make it “easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant.”

Instead of being a pencil and paper exam, students will be able to use their own device (such as a laptop or tablet) on test day. It will be conducted on a digital platform called “Blue Book” that is compatible with Chromebooks, Macs, and PCs. The platform will contain encrypted questions and track progress to ensure that if a student loses connectivity or power, they won’t lose their work.  

While the test will also be reduced down from three to two hours and calculators will be allowed for the entirety of the math section, many other aspects will remain the same. For instance, it will still be graded on a 1600 scale. 

What if I don’t have a laptop or computer?

In addition to their own device, students may use a school-issued device. If neither the school nor student can gain access to a laptop or tablet, one will be provided by the College Board on exam day in the testing location.

Why Did the College Board Make This Change?

In May 2022, New Yorker magazine published an article on the College Board’s efforts to remake the SAT. Interviewees pointed to a number of reasons for the shift. Aside from the pandemic and changes in ways students learn, the College Board’s staff pointed to security breaches and logistical challenges with a pencil-and-paper test. Students who showed up late to a test would have no way of taking the test and leaked exam forms could compromise large numbers of test takers.

The College Board hopes that digital tests will address these issues based on a series of small pilots conducted across the United States and internationally. The intention is to increase accessibility and usability for all students.

When is This Change to the SAT Coming?

To reduce strain on the system and make students comfortable with the process, the digital tests will be phased in gradually. Starting in Fall 2023, students taking the PSAT will be given a digital test.

Starting in Spring of 2024 the Digital SAT will take over, and all SATs will be administered digitally. 

Change can be confusing, but at Class 101 we are ready to answer all of your questions. If you are still confused about the Digital SAT, reach out to one of our college planning experts for a free consultation today.

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