The computer-based administration of the new digital SAT and PSAT may appear to be the most significant transformation to these enduring exams. However, many schools that use the SAT or ACT as state tests have been administering computer versions of the paper test for years. CBT SATs and ACTs have been the norm in some parts of the world for years. The dSAT won’t be like those tests.
The digital SAT represents a massive departure from the way the test has historically been scored. No longer will every question from the easiest to the most challenging be worth the same single raw score point. Instead, the dSAT is a section adaptive test.
Adaptive tests often entail complex scoring algorithms, but the concept behind them is simple. In an adaptive test, performance on one question or section determines the difficulty and corresponding score weight of upcoming questions or sections. The digital SAT and PSAT administers two Reading and Writing and two Math sections. Since the tests are section adaptive, performance on the first Reading and Writing section determines the level of difficulty and potential overall score of the second Reading and Writing section. Score well enough on the first section, and you’ll receive the more challenging second section while preserving the potential to earn the highest possible score. Fail to meet a certain threshold on that first Reading and Writing section, however, and your next Reading and Writing section will be less challenging than the first. As much as we like easier rather than harder questions, the less challenging section comes with a much lower potential RW score.
To simplify, the dSAT starts with a Reading and Writing and Math section of average difficulty. Performance on each of those sections determines the difficulty of the next RW and M sections. The difficulty of the second section establishes the upper range of your RW and M scores separately; test takers can absolutely receive an easier section in one content area and a harder one in the other.
Note that each SAT section is still scored on a 200-800 scale and added for a total SAT score of 400-1600. College Board reports a high correlation between old format paper and new digital SAT scores.
WHAT’S THE SAME?
The only aspect of SAT scoring that remains the same is the classic 400-1600 scale.
The dSAT and PSAT are section adaptive, which changes basically everything about how scores are earned and calculated.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Students need to work carefully on the first Reading and Writing and Math section of this adaptive test in order to see the more challenging and rewarding RW and M sections. Tougher questions count for more than easier ones.