On January 25, 2022, the College Board announced its most radical change to the SAT: switching from the traditional paper-and-pencil format to digital (online). Ever since the announcement, a lot of details about this new version of the SAT have surfaced. So, if you’re graduating in 2025 or later, read on to see what’s in store.
First, when you register to take the new digital SAT you will still choose a test center to take the SAT just like before. The difference is that you will bring your own laptop with you (or one will be provided) to the test center. Once you arrive and find your room, you will login to a test site where you will take the actual test. The test will have two major sections: (1) math and (2) reading combined with writing. Within each section, there will be two separate modules. The purpose of these modules is to make the test adaptive. Adaptive? What does that mean? Well, based on your performance on the first module, the second module will adjust to your level, setting the questions easier if you missed a lot of the questions on the first section, and harder if you got a lot of them right. So your score will not just be based on how many questions you get correct, but also on the difficulty of those questions. And here’s the best part: you’ll get your scores in just a few days.
A number of early pilot test-takers of the new digital format have confirmed the following breakdown:
|NUMBER OF QUESTIONS
|Reading/Writing Module 1
|Reading/Writing Module 2
|Math Module 1
|Math Module 2
|2 hrs 24 min
The total time (2 hrs 24 min) is nearly one hour less than the time required to take the current SAT (3 hrs 15 min). Within each of the sections, here are a few interesting things you should be aware of, most of which I think are positive (at least compared to the current paper-and-pencil SAT). Let’s start with the reading/writing section.
Here you’ll get 27 questions per module and you’ll have 32 minutes each. Something everyone will be happy to hear is that the reading passages have been reduced in length to a single paragraph, with only one question per paragraph! Much of the content will be similar, but pilot test-takers have seen poetry on the test as well as a new question type called “synthesizing information from notes.”
Here’s a sample passage question similar to what you may see on the test:
Many professional musicians receive conservatory training in order to become well-grounded in formal theory and instrumental technique; however, when we approach jazz we are entering quite a different sphere of training. Here it is more meaningful to speak of apprenticeship, ordeals, initiation ceremonies, and rebirth. For after the jazz musician has learned the fundamentals of an instrument and the standard techniques of jazz, such as intonations and traditional styles, the musician must then find his or her soul. All this through achieving that subtle identification between the instrument and the musician’s deepest drives, which will allow for the expression of each artist’s distinctive voice.
Which generalization about jazz training is most directly supported by the passage?
A) Its value is difficult to assess.
B) Its focus on formal technique is excessive.
C) It is a demanding process.
D) It should precede conservatory training.
Notice that the question is not necessarily easy, but it rings true to the evidence-based reasoning that the current SAT embraces. Since the passage is merely a paragraph, it will be much easier to locate the evidence to defend your answer. This would definitely be a harder question, so if you answered (C), congratulations - you’re correct.
First, you’ll get 22 questions per module and you’ll have 35 minutes each. That’s 70 minutes total and only 44 questions. Before, it was 75 minutes but 58 questions. So, on average, it looks like you’ll have an extra 15 seconds to solve each question. Second, you’ll have access to a calculator throughout both math modules. No more of this no-calculator vs calculator shuffle to worry about. Just like on the previous SAT, you can bring your own approved calculator, which means you can legally store handy programs and formulas. As always, I would strongly recommend getting the TI-84 PLUS CE edition if you don’t have one already. If you prefer online calculators, guess what: you’ll have access to Desmos. It would look something like this:
Not bad, huh? Next, the math will have a mix of the multiple choice as well as the student response questions (aka grid-ins). The grid-ins will allow for negative answers and up to 5 digits (currently no negatives are allowed, and only 4 digits max). The math content is reported to be fairly similar with the exception of newly added “limits of functions” questions. An example of such a problem might look like this:
The answer, in case you’re wondering, would be ½.
Overall, this seems like a step in the right direction, and this is coming from someone who loves taking tests the old fashioned way: paper and pencil! Almost one hour shorter, plus the fact that the passages are much shorter will keep students more focused and less fatigued. Plus, there seems to be plenty of tools to make the test run smoothly, including a countdown timer, ability to go back and change answers, online calculator, and so on. Getting the scores back within a few days will make the whole process less stressful. If I were class of 2025, taking the new digital SAT is something I’d actually be looking forward to.
Be sure to check out this nifty slide-show (from the College Board) with more details about the new digital test as well as additional sample questions.