The new virtual SAT

Outside of the USA, the SAT will begin its digital-only transition in 2023. The USA will make this transition starting in 2024. For decades, the SAT has been a paper and pencil exam. This change marks one of the most dramatic shifts in testing we have seen to date. In the face of many schools going test-optional or test-blind, it appears the SAT is attempting to continue appealing to students, regardless of whether or not the institutions they apply to require the exam.

Many worry that this approach could open the exam to cheating, but the transition to digital testing doesn’t mean you can take the test from the comfort of your own home. Testers will still be required to travel to a testing center to take the exam. There, they can use their own laptop or tablet. Students who do not have access to one will be provided one by College Board test administrators.

Others worry that technological issues might occur that interrupt a student’s ability to effectively take the exam, but the College Board has stated that the new SAT will monitor for a student’s connection and device power. In the case that either of these fail, the exam will pause itself, save all information, and the student will neither lose their work nor lose test time while they reconnect.

Other important changes

The SAT will also now be significantly shorter than it currently is. Today, test time stands at a whopping 3 hours. The new SAT will be cut down to about 2 hours. Additionally, the new exam will offer more time per question, allowing students more time to think about their answers and minimizing the time pressure of the exam.

Reading passages on the new exam will also be shortened and will only have one question each. This is also meant to help students stay engaged with the material and not mentally check out or get bogged down by long and uninteresting reading passages.

On the math section, calculators will now be allowed. This is a dramatic shift in the challenging math section that the SAT is famous for. Allowing the use of calculators may mean that students will now have to demonstrate a higher conceptual capability.

Lastly, the SAT will return scores to students within a matter of days rather than weeks. This is a big change that should increase students’ ability to make more informed decisions. Getting scores back earlier means students will be able to decide faster whether or not to sign up for another exam. Additionally, students who are taking the test close to a college application deadline will be more likely to be able to send their scores in without being late. Overall, it makes things more flexible and convenient for test takers.

Will this actually make a difference?

According to the pilot program that College Board ran in November, yes! Students in the USA and internationally were selected to try the new exam. 80% of students reported that the test was less stressful. This is an important step in the right direction. Standardized tests are meant to measure a student’s ability to do well in college. While there is still much criticism surrounding whether or not a test like the SAT truly reflects this, standardized tests can be a great way of showcasing your abilities and making yourself a more attractive applicant to colleges.

Will colleges still take the new SAT seriously? Is it worth taking and submitting my score?

Overall, the talk amongst admissions representatives at universities all over the country has been positive. Admissions offices are excited about the new changes that make it easier for students to test – even if their institutions don’t require the exam. So definitely don’t worry that schools will discount the new SAT for being “too easy” or anything like that.

Generally, we recommend submitting test scores if you are above the average score at the institution you are applying to. This can give your application a boost, which is important to get wherever you can given the increasingly competitive nature of admissions.

Don’t stress if you aren’t a particularly strong test taker. Many students can still submit compelling and successful applications without an SAT or ACT score. We simply recommend that you try your hand at a few practice tests and see how you do. If you feel you have the potential to get an above-average score, it might end up helping your application.

At American College Counselors, we work one-on-one with our clients to advise them on the optimal application strategy based on their unique academic, extracurricular, and social profile. We hope this information was helpful. If you’re looking for more personalized advise, please reach out to us at [email protected] to schedule a free initial consultation where we can get to know each other a bit more.

Have a great rest of the week!