In response to the pandemic and the closure of testing centers, a growing number of colleges have eliminated testing requirements and become “test-optional.” According to the nonprofit organization Fairtest, more than 1,800 schools do not require scores for fall 2022 admission.
While the number of test takers declined dramatically from 2.2 million for the class of 2020 to 1.5 million for the class of 2021, that number has rebounded somewhat, with about 1.7 million test takers thus far for the class of 2022. College Board is betting that a new, digital format will help it to maintain relevance in a test-optional world.
1. The test will be shorter.
The test has been reduced from three hours to two hours with fewer questions, allowing students more time for each question. Reading passages will now have a shorter, friendlier format, with short passages followed by one to two questions, compared to the current format with 11 or 12 questions per passage. Many students will find it easier to stay focused for a shorter test with shorter passages.
Additionally, calculators will be allowed on all questions in the Math section, eliminating the “No-Calculator Math” section.
2. The test will debut in the U.S. in fall 2024.
The digital SAT will be offered for the first time in the U.S. in October 2024, and international students can take the digital test starting in 2023.
Current high school U.S. freshmen in the (the class of 2025) will be the first class affected by the digital SAT–they will be offered the digital PSAT/NMSQT as juniors in the fall of 2023, followed by the digital SAT the next year. However, the digital PSAT 10 (taken by sophomores) will not be offered until 2024, meaning that the class of 2025 will still take their PSAT 10 in the paper format. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the class of 2025 take the PSAT/NMSQT their junior year so they can gain familiarity with the test format.
3. It will be a computer adaptive test.
A computer adaptive test means that test questions will change depending on a student’s performance. The SAT will be section adaptive, and each subject (Reading, Writing, and Math) will be divided into two sections. A student’s performance on the first section of a given subject will determine the difficulty level of the second section.
4. Digital tests will be offered at testing centers and schools, but not at home.
Students can take the tests at school or at testing centers using their own laptop or tablet, or one provided by the school or College Board.
The digital test will continue the trend of schools offering the test during the school day, which began in response to the closing of testing centers during the pandemic. In fact, for the class of 2021, 62% of students who took the SAT took it at their school on a weekday. Additionally, the digital, computer-adaptive format will allow schools more flexibility in offering test dates to students.
5. College Board will begin offering free test prep materials this year.
College Board will continue its relationship with Khan Academy, and digital practice tests will become available starting in fall 2022. Based on the rollout of practice test materials for the paper SAT, last updated in 2016, College Board will be able to offer more practice tests as time goes on–they release old tests for practice as the tests are “retired.”