Today, College Board announced major changes to the content and construct of the SAT suite of assessments. These changes do NOT impact current high school graduating classes of 2023 and 2024, but they WILL impact the class of 2025 (current freshmen) by spring of 2024.
Here’s what you need to know:
The SAT Will Become Adaptive
The SAT will become adaptive, like NWEA’s current MAP (Measurement of Academic Progress) test or two sections of the GRE, that is, each answer determines future questions the student sees. Each test section (Reading, Writing, and Math) will be divided into two parts called modules. Students will answer a set of questions in the first module before moving on to the second module; the second module depends on the student’s performance on the first module.
Students can preview the application used for the exam here. The application includes the ability for students to flag any questions they want to come back to later, as well as access to an on-screen graphing calculator and a countdown clock. Accommodations will still be available for the digital format.
The SAT Will Become Digital
The SAT is moving to a 100% digital format. The test will be taken on a laptop or tablet, and students will be able to use their own device or a device from their school. College Board has also committed to providing test day devices to students without access on their own. The test is not an at-home test; it will still be given at school and national test centers. Should there be connectivity or device issues, the test will pause and restart when the student can get back online (automatically saving their work).
The College Board is fully transitioning to digital tests, so the pencil and paper version will no longer be available once the digital version is being administered. That means, starting in spring 2024, all students will take the digital version both on national test dates and as part of SAT School Day. Digital tests are more secure, allowing each student to receive a unique test form.
The Timeline for Revision
The new digital SAT will be administered internationally starting in March 2023, but not in the United States until a year later in Spring 2024. This means that students in the high school class of 2025 (current freshmen) will be the first to take the digital SAT in spring of their junior year. The PSAT 8/9, and PSAT NMSQT will be administered starting in fall 2023, so the class of 2025 will have exposure to that test if they take the PSAT NMSQT in fall of their junior year.
The Content & Structure
College Board is highlighting that the content will still largely be the same as it is now and will continue to assess reading, writing, and math skills. However, there are some key changes to the content:
- The test will be one hour shorter, moving to two hours from its current three-hour administration.
- The reading section is undergoing an overhaul and will feature shorter passages, each with a single question tied to the text. They are also updating the passage content: “…passages will reflect a wider range of topics that represent the works students read in college.”
- The math section will feature less wordy questions. Calculators will now be allowed across the entire math section. Formulas are still provided for the math section.
- The test is still timed; students who participated in the pilot referenced the availability of an on-screen clock to help pace themselves.
The test will remain on a 1600-point scale. Scores will be delivered faster, just a few days after testing. College Board has stated that scores will mean the same thing—so scores from the pencil and paper test will be comparable to the new version. They’ll be conducting validity studies over the next two years to assess predictive validity and reliability.
However, as an adaptive test, scoring will work very differently than it currently does now, where student scores are currently generated as a function of the number of correct answers. Instead, the difficulty of questions will be weighted in determining a student’s score.
Our Insights & Questions
Since entering test preparation in the mid-90s, I’ve seen 3 major revisions to the SAT. This will be the 4th, and with each apparent revolution in content & construct, one thing remains: the test assesses reading, verbal reasoning, and mathematics skills associated with college and career readiness. Through each change, we continue to teach those associated skills and help students grow scores and skills both on and beyond the test. If students approach these tests with a healthy perspective, they will continue to grow scores and skills, as always. While that remains true, this revision does raise specific questions:
- Will College Board stick to their timeline—and truly retire the pencil and paper tests with no overlap? There have been delays in the past with timelines and commitments to digital administration.
- Will the module format and content updates change the time-per-question or reading speed required for the test?
- Will validity and reliability studies show that the digital SAT is truly comparable to the pencil and paper tests—and the ACT? Or will this uncertainty push more students, schools, or districts to the ACT test?
- In response, will ACT offer similar changes—or return to their indefinitely delayed plans to offer section retesting?
We’ll be providing more details and updates as they become available. General info from College Board is here; FAQs on the updates are here! College Board’s news release can also be found here. We look forward to keeping you apprised.