If your son or daughter is currently entering 10th grade, you may not be entirely steeped in every detail of every aspect of college admissions… at least not yet! But decisions made early in high school often prove influential for better or worse once college applications start shipping. You and your teen should be thinking about academic rigor, extracurricular commitments, and innovative ways to pursue their most particular interests. And, for just a moment, you might think about admissions tests.
Make no mistake: 10th grade is too soon for most (but not all) teens to take the SAT or ACT. But change is coming to the SAT, and we’re already getting questions about how to proceed.
The SAT is going fully digital in the United States in 2024. American students will see a digital PSAT in October 2023, but expect the March 2024 SAT to be the first domestic digital administration. If you really want to take a digital SAT sooner, you’ll have to test outside the United States.
The digital SAT described by College Board does not represent a dramatic departure from the current test in terms of what is tested; the only significant content change will be much shorter reading passages. However, a computer-based test is a big deal in and of itself, as digital testing delivers certain benefits and disadvantages.
Furthermore, the digital SAT will be section-adaptive. Without getting into the details of how adaptive testing impacts strategy and performance, I’ll just point out that this new version of the test won’t feel exactly like the current one. Not only will it be significantly shorter, but the test may be more stressful in some ways and less in others.
At this early date in the rollout of the digital SAT, I feel optimistic that College Board will be successful in realizing its vision of a test that many teens say they would prefer over the current iteration. But I’ve lived through major test revisions before! The best way for students in the high school graduating class of 2025 to start planning now for the digital SAT is to understand their options:
OPTION 1: Stay the course and target the SAT in 11th grade. Consider that many students take the SAT in the fall or winter of junior year, so you may not have to sit for the digital SAT anyway.
OPTION 2: Put yourself in a better position to take the SAT at the end of 10th grade or beginning of 11th. Becoming a devoted reader and completing Algebra 2 and Trigonometry by the end of 10th grade will help a lot in this endeavor.
OPTION 3: Recognize that, no matter what your SAT game plan is, the ACT is not going to change. This test will offer its current paper version for the foreseeable future. Since many students perform equally well on both tests in their current forms, allow the stability of the ACT to serve as a hedge against the potential volatility of the SAT.
In summary, my advice to students in the high school graduating class of 2025 echoes the advice I offer just about every year: stay the course.
Enroll in 10th grade classes that reflect your interests and academic ability. Accelerating your math coursework generally supports higher SAT and ACT math scores, but nobody should take on classes in school they are not ready for or interested in just for the sake of standardized tests. Families who are looking ahead to finding the right fit colleges for their current high school sophomores should focus on grades, rigor, and authentic extracurricular engagement. Building character and emotional intelligence matters as well. Take care of academic excellence, and those future tests–paper SAT, digital SAT, or ACT–will take care of themselves. We’ll help you make sure of it!