That the SAT changes substantially every ten years or so is not news. College Board’s newest announcement, however, takes the test into entirely new territory:
With input from educators and students, College Board is adapting the SAT® Suite of Assessments (SAT, PSAT/NMSQT®, PSAT™ 10, PSAT™ 8/9) to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs. The digital SAT will allow every student—regardless of where they go to high school—to access opportunities and scholarships. While the SAT is largely optional for college admissions, we want it to be the best possible option for students to show their strengths.
Considering that ACT added computer-based testing for international and some school day testing years ago, the idea of a digital entrance exam is hardly novel. But ACT’s experience with unrealistic deadlines and operational challenges suggest we consider College Board’s timeline as more aspirational than assured.
Last year, I listed a number of questions that a truly digital SAT or ACT would need to answer. College Board has provided some answers…
What did the College Board say about a new digital SAT?
The SAT is definitely going digital. Once that transition occurs, paper-and-pencil tests will be phased out almost completely.
What is the projected timeline for the new test?
The SAT is expected to go fully digital at international test sites in 2023. Current projections anticipate a digital PSAT in October 2023 with a complete switch to digital SAT testing in the United States spring 2024.
What is an adaptive test anyway, and why does this matter?
Adaptive tests become more or less challenging based on how well a test taker is doing. Most adaptive admissions tests like the GRE have been question-adaptive, but the digital SAT projects to be section-adaptive. College Board has not yet released an example of a full adaptive SAT.
What does ACT’s digital format experience have to do with this?
ACT has seen a lot of success in administering secure digital ACT exams internationally, which supports the benefits of moving to computer-based testing. Some U.S. schools also administer digital tests during school day testing. While many adults find digital testing more cognitively demanding than working with a physical test booklet, today’s teens often prefer the computer-based experience.
How does this announcement impact current high schoolers?
Current sophomores and juniors are safe from digital testing. However, if College Board’s timeline unfolds as planned, the high school graduating class of 2026 will be the first digital cohort.
If you’re interested in more detailed answers about what the new digital SAT means, I met with some highly experienced colleagues to discuss the implications for current and future students. And if you are worried about managing the transition from one form of the SAT to another, don’t… we’ve been through this before!