The SAT is changing--what does that mean for me? - Point Avenue

The SAT is changing--what does that mean for me?

The SAT has long been a staple of college admissions, although colleges have been putting less weight on standardized test scores overall for a number of years now. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend as it left many students unable to take the test, and almost all schools have implemented test-optional (but not test-blind) policies.

Although this trend of test-optional policies is unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic mandatory requirements, the test itself is changing. College Board recently announced that their tests will be changing from paper-based tests to be fully digital.

This will start being delivered digitally to students internationally in 2023. For US students, it will begin in 2024. And registration for the digital test will start in fall 2022, although the details aren't clear yet.

Here is what’s not changing, what is changing, and what it all means for you.

1. What’s not changing about the test?

Several key parts of the SAT will remain the same as you know it. The general format of the test will be the same with math and verbal sections. The total score will still be out of 1600.

2. The test will be fully digital and taken on a computer

The paper-based test will be going the way of the dinosaur very soon.

However, the test will still be administered at a school or in a test-center with a proctor present. Even though you will be taking the test on a computer, you will not be taking this test at home.

College Board also says that students can bring their own computer or use a school issued one. However, if a student doesn’t have one, College Board will provide one as well in an effort for accessibility. Additionally, if students lose power or connectivity, their work will be saved until reconnected.

3. The test is getting shorter

The new digital test will be shorter from 3 to 2 hours. The test will be an hour shorter!

Although the exact format of the test hasn’t been revealed yet, that means that there will be significant changes to the test and you could expect each section of the test to be shorter.

4. Shorter reading passages

Another major shift is that reading sections will feature shorter reading passages with one question tied to each passage, and the passages will reflect a wider range of passages than the current SAT.

That’s quite a big change from the current SAT reading passages that are anywhere from 500-750 words each and only cover literary narrative, science, and history and social science genres. Right now, each of these passages has about 10 questions per passage.

5. Calculators will be allowed on the entire Math section

Right now, the Math is administered in two sections: one with a calculator and one without. With the digital SAT, you can use a calculator throughout the entire test.

6. Get your scores back faster

With the paper-based SAT, scores take about 2 weeks to get back to you, if not longer.

With the new test, you will receive your score back within days. This should come as a relief to many students as you can see your results more immediately, identify your areas of improvement, and readjust your testing roadmap as needed.

For those applying to college, this is good news too. If you’re coming down to the wire in December, you used to have to decide whether you would send your scores blind (without seeing your scores beforehand) to schools. Getting the scores back in days, you can now make a more informed decision about whether the score will be a good addition to your application or not.

7. Unique tests for everyone

In the past, there have been horror stories of entire tests being canceled for students because of accusations of cheating.

The digital test means that every student gets a unique test form and that such risks will be mitigated.

At the same time, the SAT will now be an adaptive test. For both the math and verbal sections, they will be divided into 2 modules and questions that the student receives in the second module will depend on the first module.

8. Built in tools on the test

The test will now provide a couple of tools built into the test:

  • A way to flag questions to come back to later
  • A countdown clock to keep track of time
  • A built in graphing calculator (no more bringing the wrong calculator!)
  • A reference sheet of formulas for the math section

With schools going test-optional, should I still take an SAT as an international student?

If studying for and taking the test doesn’t present you with any unreasonable challenges to overcome, then our answer is yes. We know the test isn’t exactly fun to study for or take, but a good score can be a crucial part of your profile. But hey, the College Board also recognizes this is and is making an effort to make the test shorter and less stressful, so take advantage of that fact.

Consider that in the US, there are over 25,000 high schools and it’s impossible for universities to know the quality of all of them. Similarly for schools abroad, universities won’t always be aware of the differences and rigor in curriculum of a school in another country, especially if you’re in a public school. The SAT provides a common point of comparison for a student’s relative academic and scholastic abilities. And while colleges are putting less weight on a student’s test scores to emphasize other aspects of the profile (GPA, ECAs, and so on), if there are two candidates that are otherwise similar but one has a strong SAT and the other doesn’t, the one with the strong SAT is going to be seen more favorably.

At the end of the day, the SAT is just one more aspect of your application that is important to think of what is the best strategy to present the strongest application. If you have questions, reach out to us and start strategizing today!