The College Board’s SAT suite of tests, including the eponymous exam and the PSAT, are moving to the digital world.
The board plans to roll out the digital international SAT by spring of 2023, the digital PSAT by fall of 2023 and the digital U.S. SAT by spring of 2024, according to the board website. Students will still need to test at certified College Board centers or during designated SAT days at their schools.
With the move to digital, the College Board is also making other changes, including:
Students will take the exam on laptops or tablets. Students will be provided devices on test day if they do not have one.
The SAT will last two hours, instead of three.
A calculator will be allowed throughout the entire math section.
Each test section will have adaptive questions that will change in difficulty based on the student’s performance on an initial set of questions.
The reading section will have shorter passages with one question each.
Administrators will have more flexibility on when to administer tests.
Scores will be delivered faster.
Score reports will show potential two-year college, career and workforce training opportunities.
The College Board has not indicated whether the price of the SAT will change. The SAT cost $55 in 2021-22, according to the College Board.
Country Day Director of College Counseling Jane Bauman said the new digital format will not impact the value of the SAT to college admissions officers.
Already the importance of the SAT — digital or print — has been wavering because many colleges already are test-optional and the University of California system, among others, have gone test-blind.“Over 1,800 schools are test-optional,” Bauman said. “Schools know how to make a decision without test scores.”
The trend away from requiring tests, specifically the SAT and ACT, is likely to stay unless test-optional or test-free schools are unable to attract the type of students they want, said Country Day College Counselor Alicia Perla.
Seth Katz, ’09, has been an admissions officer at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, since 2015. He said the SAT hasn’t been and is not a “major determining factor for admission.”
Furthermore, the new digital format will likely not have an impact on admissions at Sarah Lawrence, Katz said. However, the admissions officers there have not yet discussed whether they will make changes to their admissions process for the 2022-23 admissions cycle, which would impact the graduating class of 2023.
Katz said Sarah Lawrence, like many other colleges, takes a holistic approach to college admissions, which includes many optional parts — including the SAT.
“I wouldn’t say we weigh one part of the application more heavily,” he said. “Obviously, GPA, the transcript, that’s an important component. But it’s not the only thing.”
He said it doesn’t necessarily matter if students have or have not submitted an SAT because the school does not compare applicants unless they come from the same school.
“If the student only submits the required components of the application, that’s enough for us to make a decision.”
Likewise, Perla said the absence of standardized testing in an application will make admissions officers look more closely, but not necessarily raise one part of the application to a higher value.
“It’s just one among a variety of factors. If you score really well, great. That’s a plus. Similar to if you’re the head of Student Council — that’s another plus,” Perla said.
Testing was considered more in the past and it has just lowered in rank,” Perla said.
Katz advises students who choose to submit SAT scores to test-optional schools to look at how their scores compare to the middle 50% range for students enrolled in that college. He also suggested students look at how their SAT scores compare to their classroom performance.
Bauman had similar advice, adding that whether students should take the SAT depends on where they intend to go to college.
Schools in California are overwhelmingly test-free, rendering the SAT mostly useless, while the states of Georgia and Florida still require the SAT or ACT to be considered for admission into public state universities.
Ultimately, Bauman recommended taking the SAT at least once in case students need a score.
She added students don’t need to worry about taking the test until the summer after junior year.
“I would also tell parents there’s absolutely no reason to pay for an expensive test prep course because it’s likely you won’t even need test scores,” she said. “And the free preparation materials are excellent.”
Test status of schools at which Country Day students commonly enroll*
University of California System
California State University System
Loyola Marymount University
University of Colorado System
University of Pacific
University of Pennsylvania
Harvey Mudd College
Santa Clara University
George Washington University
University of Rochester
University of Chicago
Georgia Institute of Technology
*Data is from the graduate years 2016-21. Schools listed had at least two SCDS students enroll in that time period.
Still, the junior-year PSAT continues to hold value, Bauman said. Juniors taking the PSAT can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, which can include up to $2,500 for a student’s first year of college.
With standardized testing taking on more of a supplementary role in college admissions, Perla said it’s important to keep parents informed, many of whom may be approaching their child’s college admissions process with their own experiences in mind.
“We need to educate the parents, because it’s not just the process that has changed, but the nature of certain schools and their reputations and their selectivities have changed,” Perla said.
As test-optional admissions becomes more of a norm, Perla said she hopes she can reframe the way students choose colleges. Instead of parents getting their children to “fit a mold” for a certain school, students should instead look for which schools fit them — and that list has expanded as standardized testing fades in importance.