The SAT is going digital. College Board introduced a series of what it called "student-friendly" changes to the exam. Those changes include shortening the test to two hours instead of three, presenting shorter reading passages and allowing the use of calculators on the whole math portion.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it some radical and unprecedented changes worldwide in the education sector. One significant change was that some US universities made the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) optional for students. Another big decision came in January 2022, when the College Board, the global board that conducts the exam, announced that starting next year, SAT will go digital.
While for some students this might be a wave of relief, others might be apprehensive about taking the test online. The goal of this article is to demystify all your doubts pertaining to SAT and provide you with useful tips and techniques to ace your Digital SAT.
Debuting in 2023, the digital SAT will be shorter, more concise and utilize state-of-the-art technology to improve test access, quality and delivery to students around the world. The test’s refresh will create a more equitable playing field and make testing a more favorable experience for all students.
"We're not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we're taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible," Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board, said in a statement.
Students will be able to take the test on either a laptop computer or a tablet and will have the option to take the test on their own device or on a school-owned one. If students are unable to access equipment needed to take the test, they can request a device from College Board. The SAT will still be scored on a 1600 scale.
International students (including students in UAE and Middle East) will be able to take the SAT digitally from early 2023, while students in the US will be able to take the test digitally from 2024. The PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 8/9 will be delivered digitally in 2023, with the PSAT 10 following in 2024.
The decision follows a November 2021 pilot program, in which 80% of students responding said they found the digital experience to be less stressful.
What is SAT and who should appear for it?
SAT is a standardized test designed mainly for high school students who want to pursue their undergraduate degree from the United States. However, SAT is not restricted to the US; in recent times, many universities across Canada, Singapore, Europe, as well as India have started recognizing SAT scores for admission purposes. Moreover, SAT is highly recommended for students, who don’t have Math in grade XI and/or XII and are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Science, Medicine, Economics, or related fields, because four years of high school Math is a mandatory requirement by several top universities in the UK, US, and Canada.
Why is SAT important for international students?
Standardized test scores provide an easy way for admission officers to understand the cognitive ability and college readiness of the student. SAT is especially important for international students as in many cases there may not be enough understanding of how a national curriculum compares with the US high school curriculum and other boards like IB or IGCSE. A high SAT score provides a strong indicator of your academic prowess and ability to succeed in college.
SAT Blind Vs. SAT Optional
The number of SAT Optional colleges drastically increased during the pandemic owing to the extensive cancellations and rescheduling of tests and inaccessibility of test centers. SAT Optional universities give you a choice to submit your test scores and might consider it while evaluating your overall candidature for admissions, whereas SAT Blind universities (for the current admission cycle) will not give any weightage to your SAT score no matter how well or poorly you have performed.
Should I appear for the SAT if it's optional?
We strongly recommend students to take the SAT upon completing their grade X, since the score is valid for five years. There are three main advantages a good score provides
Enhance your classroom performance as the efforts you put in to prepare for SAT will also reflect in your high school Math and English results;
Avoid the stress and eliminate the need of undertaking various entrance examinations, when applying to different geographies including the new liberal arts universities in India.
Digital SAT vs. Paper-based SAT
Digital SAT holds several advantages over the traditional SAT format in terms of time duration, results availability, and level of difficulty. Some key changes:
The time duration for the Digital SAT is expected to come down to two hours from the current three hours. Students should be able to get their scores much faster than the current process which takes weeks.
Passages within the Reading Comprehension section will be shorter with only one question tied to each passage. This will shift the focus to analyzing the shorter passage for the relevant answer.
Moreover, students will be allowed to use a Calculator for the entire Math section. This will reduce the focus from calculation to choosing the right approach. These are significant changes that will make the SAT exam more relevant and in tune with the current university expectations.
Test takers will also be able to clearly see how much time is remaining to reduce the stress level while taking the test and flag test questions that may require additional time and that they want to go back to. Worrying about lost points due to stray pencil marks or improperly filled bubbles on an answer sheet will be a thing of the past.
“It was really efficient,” said Claudina Vaqueiro, a pilot participant and student at The American School Foundation of Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico. “I loved that I could easily return to questions that I had flagged.”
Acknowledging access to the internet has been a constant struggle for many students during the pandemic, especially in rural and low-income areas, the digital SAT is designed to ensure students won't lose work or time if the internet goes out and they need to reconnect. Testing will continue to be proctored at secure test centers and real-time technical support will be provided in the event of any test day issues. The digital format can also easily provide accommodations to students with disabilities and special needs.
“Everything from downloading the app, to setting up our devices, to actually taking the SAT went really smoothly,” said Aidan Bimbrahw, a student at The British School New Delhi, India. “I was a lot less stressed.”
With the digital SAT, students will experience a better testing environment and be able to receive their test scores within days, not weeks. This gives them choices and ample time to decide how to utilize their scores and will provide the opportunity to retest, if needed.
To sum it up, we live in a digital era where the need to revolutionize our traditional teaching and learning methods has grown exponentially. It is only a matter of time and practice to get used to the computerized version of the SAT. And once you do, you will swimmingly conquer this digital and more intuitive version of SAT and make your way to the top universities.
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