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Pencils Down! The SAT Goes Digital

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Emily Toffelmire

Written by Emily Toffelmireon February 24th, 2022

I came to College Coach after working for many years in college admissions and high school counseling. As a school counselor, I assisted students in the college application process and wrote hundreds of letters of recommendation, while also helping them and their families cope with any emotional, social, and academic concerns throughout the year. I transitioned from the high school setting to the admissions office when I joined the University of Southern California as an assistant director, reading freshmen and transfer applications and collaborating on admission decisions for over 150 majors, including the liberal arts, engineering, business, cinema, and the fine and performing arts. I subsequently took on the role of senior assistant director in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, where I coordinated the division's Mork, Stamps, Trustee, Presidential and Dean's merit scholarship selection process, as well as recruitment publications and outreach, and traveled everywhere from Honolulu to Miami presenting to and interviewing hundreds of applicants each year.
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College Board recently announced its plan to transition the SAT from a pencil-and-paper exam to a digital one—but not every current high school student will be affected. At Bright Horizons College Coach, we’re already getting lots of questions about this change. Read on for answers to those most commonly asked. When is the SAT going digital? The first domestic digital SAT will be offered in spring of 2024. That is as specific as College Board has gotten; no particular month has been mentioned, so we could see the digital exam as soon as March 2024 or as late as May 2024. International test centers will go digital earlier, with a start date of March 2023. What about the PSAT? The PSAT will also go digital, but not until fall of 2023. Most high schools offer the test to their juniors (and some to sophomores) in October of each year. That means the 2022 PSAT coming up this fall will be the last chance to take the test on paper. Is the content changing? While the content covered won’t be markedly different, the way it’s presented will change. Here are some of the most notable differences you can expect:
  • The test will be two hours long instead of three hours long (yay!) and students will have more time per question.
  • There will be two sections instead of four: Reading/Writing and Math. That R/W section will feature shorter passages than before, with fewer questions per passage.
  • Even with these section changes, the total maximum score will still be 800 in each section, with a total max score of 1600.
Do I need to have my own laptop to take the test? No. While you can use your own laptop, you can also opt to take the SAT in a testing center that will provide a computer for you. Regardless of which computer you use, you’ll have access to an app that will save your testing progress and provide you built-in tools like a calculator, timer, reference sheet, and annotator (so you can flag questions you want to return to later). If I have a laptop, can I take the SAT at home in my pajamas? No and yes: No, you can’t take it at home (you’ll need to bring your laptop into a testing center to take the exam). Yes, technically, we guess you could wear your pajamas to the testing center if you feel you do your best work in loungewear. Wait, you mentioned a built-in calculator, but can I still use my own? It is my best friend. Yes, bring that BFF! And, get this: You can use your calculator throughout the entire math section. I read that the test will be adaptive; what even is that? That means each section will start with an introductory module. How you do on that module determines how difficult your subsequent questions are. That may sound strange, but adaptive testing has been around for quite a while in other standardized tests. Does the test being digital mean the agonizing wait for my scores will be shorter? Yes! You’ll probably get scores in days instead of weeks.   College Board will release more information this summer, and the organization plans to make full digital practice tests available in fall 2022.

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