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Get Ready! Changes Are Coming to the SAT

Guest Contributor

Parents, do you remember taking the SAT?

Nerves jangling, you came to school on a Saturday with your sharpened No. 2 pencils. You sat in a classroom with an unsmiling proctor, who might have been your usually affable gym teacher.

Three stressful hours later (“Your time is up!”), you commiserated with your classmates about what a horrible experience it was and then dragged yourself home.

That SAT is going the way of film strips, overhead projectors and floppy disks. Major changes are coming to the SAT in 2024 that will make the test less stressful and more accessible to more students, hopefully improving outcomes.

Despite criticisms that the test is being “dumbed down,” I believe, because of my experience as a test prep tutor and college planning advisor, that it will provide a more level playing field. Besides, the SAT had to change or become completely obsolete, as many colleges have moved to test-optional or no-test admission policies.

Here’s what the high school freshman of today can expect when they take the test as juniors in 2024.

1. The test is going all-digital.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, says that by going digital, the test will become easier to take, easier to give and more relevant. The tests will still be administered in a supervised setting, but students will be able to use their own computers or smartphones.

If a student doesn’t have a device, College Board will provide one on test day. The digital SAT has been designed so that, in the event of a loss of power, the student won’t lose their work.

Perhaps most notably, the digital format will reduce the potential for cheating. Each student will receive a different test, and thus would not be able to look at any other nearby tests for answers. With the current pencil-and-paper tests, if even one test is compromised, all of the tests in that group might have to be discarded.

2. The test will take two hours instead of three.

That three-hour test was a marathon. In the new test, reading passages will be shorter, more topically varied, and will have only one or two questions per passage. A calculator will be allowed on all of the math, not just some of it.

Also, the digital format will have built-in timers to help students with time management as well as built-in calculators, which will help eradicate the stress of finding and bringing a test-appropriate calculator.

3. More test dates will be available. 

Because digital tests will be easier to administer, testing date options will be more flexible. The College Board says this is important because more students are taking the SAT during the school day, instead of on a SATurday (pun intended).

It reports that for the Class of 2021, 62 percent of students who took the SAT took it for free at their school on a weekday. Research indicates that for students from low-income families, taking the test in school increases the likelihood of college attendance.

4. Results will be quicker.

Students and educators will get scores back in days instead of weeks. And, to reflect the range of choices students have after high school, the score reports will connect students to resources and information about community college, workforce training and career options.

According to College Board, students who participated in pilot testing last fall found the test less taxing and more focused. Test proctors liked that they didn’t have to manage packing, sorting and shipping test materials.

Even while increasing numbers of colleges and universities adopted test-optional admissions during the pandemic, millions of students still took the SAT because they wanted to find out where they stand and whether they should submit their scores with their college applications. Many students believe taking the test and getting a good score will help them stand out among those students who decided not to take the test. And at many institutions, standardized test scores continue to factor into merit aid awards.

So while the SAT now plays a smaller role in college admission, it still is important to some scholarships and consideration for certain academic programs. The new test — easier to take, shorter and (hopefully) less stressful — will ensure students have the options they need to successfully gain college admission.

Rich Goldman is Director of Tutoring with My College Planning Team. After working with both Kaplan and Princeton Review, Rich developed his own methodology for how to teach the tips, tricks and methods to students of all levels to help them get their very best SAT and ACT scores. Rich holds a bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania.
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