College Board rolls out plans for digital SAT amid declining relevance


Allan Zhang

CollegeBoard announced that the SAT will be administered digitally in the U.S. starting in 2024.

On Jan. 25, the College Board announced that the SAT, one of the nation’s most well-known college-entry exams, is switching to a digital format for students of the class of 2024 and beyond. 

The current standardized exam is a three-hour-long paper-pencil exam consisting of four sections: Reading (65 minutes), Writing & Language (35 minutes), and two Math sections (80 minutes) – with and without a calculator. The SAT had previously included an Essay section which was eventually removed in June 2021 due to claims of unfair grading. 

In response to student critiques regarding the accessibility and fairness of the current SAT, College Board has taken new measures to reformat its exam. Under the reading section, there will be shorter, more relevant passages with comprehension questions. College Board will also allow students to use their calculators in both math sections. Despite the number of changes, the newly proposed two-hour digital SAT is claimed to be just as rigorous as the paper-pencil version.

“I think the SAT decided to go virtual since it is much easier to manage in general,” Dougherty Valley sophomore Natalie Chan said. “Also it’s much more accessible for students to take. I think I would prefer to take the virtual test.”

As a result of the new digital format of the SAT, students will be able to receive their test scores in days instead of weeks. Students will also be able to use their personal electronic devices for the test. 

College Board claimed that these changes were done to reduce the amount of stress on students, citing that 80% of students who took the new digital test in a pilot program found it less stressful than the traditional paper version. 

Although College Board claims that a digital SAT will mitigate stress, there are other concerns. Amid an increasing number of colleges and universities going test-optional, many have raised doubts regarding the relevancy of standardized tests in college admissions. According to the educational organization National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), over 1,800 institutions were test-optional or test-blind for the 2022 admissions cycle, and at least 1,400 of these will continue doing so for the 2023 admissions cycle.

“In terms of the role of the test [in the college admissions], it’s like a pie, and each pie has a variety of slices to it. There are also a lot of other things that [are taken into consideration] like essays, letters of rec, activities, and transcripts. A lot of schools are test-optional so [the tests] have a lot less emphasis on admissions in the foreseeable future,” Rajni Nijjer, a Dougherty Valley counselor, said. 

Despite this, many still believe that standardized tests like the SAT are still a viable way to differentiate top students. 

“But I think it’ll be more used as [a way for] students to waive out of a placement test in college,” Nijjer said.