Since it was first introduced in 1926, almost a century ago, the SAT has seen dramatic changes. However, one aspect of the exam has remained unchanged. For decades and decades, millions of high school students with collegiate aspirations have shared the experience of filling in tiny bubbles, using often dull, sometimes breaking #2 pencils. This is all about to change. The SAT, and its little brother, the PSAT, are going digital.
Beginning in the fall of 2023, the PSAT will no longer be offered on pencil and paper.
Beginning in the spring of 2024, neither will the SAT.
Computer Based Testing
Many students and families have expressed to us their concern about the fairness and legitimacy of computer based testing. This shift from paper and pencil to computer feels sudden. How can we be assured that it will be executed well?
Fortunately, though the Digital SAT is new, computer based testing is not. In fact, some standardized tests have been computer based since the early 90s. The Digital SAT will follow the current, well-worn format of the GRE, which has been tried and tested since 2011.
This proven testing approach promises several benefits. First, the exam will become more secure, drastically reducing if not eliminating test-takers’ ability to cheat. Second, the length of time needed to test will be significantly reduced, from 3 hours on the current SAT to only 2:14 on the new Digital SAT, a reduction of more than 25%. Lastly, students will receive scores and score reports much more quickly than on the current SAT.
To facilitate the new Digital SAT, College Board has created an application called “Bluebook.” If you wish to familiarize yourself with it and with its initial 4 Practice SAT Exams, you can download it here. Going forward this application will be used for all SATs, PSATs, and AP Exams.
Students will be able to test, using this application, either on their own personal computers or tablets or on devices provided by their school. The application is designed so that even if a device loses internet connection during an exam, the student will still be able to complete the exam. The computer will securely store the exam results until an internet connection is reestablished, at which time it will upload those results to College Board.
During testing, the application will “lock-down” the student’s device, so that the student cannot open other applications. The application includes a timer, calculator, answer elimination feature, question flagger, and a highlighter (the highlighter is not available in the Math Section).
We recommend that students download and familiarize themselves with the application.
Tried & True’s Testing Application
At Tried & True, we have also developed a practice testing application that perfectly mimics College Board’s Blue Book. Students in Tried & True courses and tutoring programs will engage in full tests as well as more targeted practice within an authentic testing environment.
The biggest advantage of our testing application is the detail and insight provided by our score reports. Students taking Official Digital SAT Exams will no longer be able to see the questions or their answers once their test has concluded. They will only have access to their overall scores once the score report is available.
Tried & True’s Testing Application offers details on individual missed questions, categories of missed questions, and test timing. These insights allow students, teachers, and tutors to focus preparation to achieve the best possible results.
The SAT is currently offered on national testing dates 7 times per year. With the coming of the Digital SAT, this schedule will remain unchanged. The SAT is also offered on school days, in partnership with numerous schools around the country. Schools taking advantage of this School Day Testing will now have more flexibility when scheduling the Digital SAT.
Not an at-home exam
Although the SAT is now computer based, it will still be administered at schools or other testing sites, within a controlled and proctored setting.
How does it work?
The new Digital SAT is what is known as a Stage Adaptive Exam. The first half of the exam tests reading and writing. The second half of the exam tests math.
When the exam begins, the Bluebook Application downloads 3 Reading & Writing and 3 Math sections.
The student takes the first Reading & Writing section. If the student performs well enough on this first stage, the application will select from the harder of the two remaining sections. If the student does not perform as well on the first stage, the application will select the easier of the two remaining sections. This process then repeats on the Math Section.
This is called stage adaptive because the exam will only “adapt” once at the end of the first Reading & Writing stage and once again at the end of the first Math stage. This enables students to move both backwards and forward within a stage. This also reduces the stakes on individual questions. The strategy is to get the most questions possible correct within a given section.
The new Digital SAT will feature most of the same accommodations featured by the current SAT. While paper-and-pencil testing will no longer be available to the vast majority of students, paper-and-pencil testing will be available to students whose accommodations require it.
For a more detailed look at SAT and PAST accommodations, see our blog article here.
With the introduction of the Digital SAT, students of the class of 2025 and later, will only be able to take computer based SAT exams. The ACT has committed to remaining a paper-and-pencil exam. This stark difference will likely become the key differentiator between these two competing college entrance exams. Students preferring the more traditional paper-and-pencil setting may opt to take the ACT. While students more comfortable with computer based testing may opt to take the SAT.
The improved security, reduced timing, and faster score report turnaround of the new Digital SAT are attractive features that will likely drive quick adoption.
Here at Tried & True, we are ready to support students, families, schools, and community programs with our new testing application, curriculum, strategies, and trained instructors in preparation for the new Digital SAT.