High school students soon won’t need pencils any longer for the SAT

The long-standing pencil and paper SAT college admissions exam will shift online in 2024 when students will take both the SAT and PSAT on computers or tablets. (File photo)

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The long-standing pencil and paper SAT college admissions exam will shift online in 2024 when students will take both the SAT and PSAT on computers or tablets. (File photo)

College Board announces college admissions tests will shift online in 2024

Remember the days when high school students showed up to take the SAT with a clutch of freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils?

Those days are coming to an end.

The long-standing pencil and paper college admissions exam will shift online in 2024 when students will take the SAT on computers or tablets. (International students will see their tests move online a year earlier, in 2023.) However, students must still sit for the exams in a school or in a test center with a proctor present. They can’t take them at home.

“The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board, in a statement. “We’re not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we’re taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible.“

Among the changes:

— The digital SAT will be about two hours instead of three for the current SAT, with more time per question.

— The digital test will feature shorter reading passages with one question tied to each, and passages will reflect a wider range of topics.

— Calculators will be allowed on the entire math section.

— Students and educators will get scores back in days rather than weeks.

— To reflect the range of post-high school paths, the score reports will also connect students to information and resources about local two-year colleges, workforce training programs, and career options.

— The PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 8/9 will given digitally starting in 2023 with the PSAT 10 following in 2024.

— Students will be able to use their own or school-issued devices. If students lack access to a computer, College Board will provide one on test day. If a student loses connectivity or power, the digital SAT will retain their completed work and will not count the time necessary to reconnect.

In its shift, the SAT is embracing the approach of most state-level testing, including in Georgia where the annual Milestones exams in grade three through high school are primarily online. However, at this point, students taking the ACT, the other widely used college entrance exam, are still confined to a paper test on national testing dates, although students outside the United States take a computer version. Also, U.S. school districts that give the ACT to their students during the school day administer the computer-based version.

Many colleges have made the SAT and ACT optional, a trend accelerated in the past two years after COVID-19 shutdowns of test sites. Teens aiming for select colleges often still sign up for the exams, believing top scores enhance their chances. And the scores are frequently part of the consideration for honors programs and scholarships.

While the University System of Georgia briefly waived the ACT/SAT requirement during the pandemic, it reinstated it and current high school seniors must submit standardized-test scores for fall admissions.

The debate continues about the relevancy and reliability of tests like the SAT and ACT. Proponents argue the tests offer an objective measure at a time when the percentage of students graduating from high school with an A average has grown from 39% in 1998 to 55% in 2021.

Opponents contend the test is becoming irrelevant, as seen by the number of campuses adopting test optional policies. “Shifting an unnecessary, biased, coachable, and poorly predictive multiple-choice exam that few schools currently require from pencil-and-paper delivery to an electronic format does not magically transform it into a more accurate, fairer or valid tool for assessing college readiness,” said Bob Schaeffer, executive director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing.Just as with previous versions of the ‘new improved SAT,’” the latest repackaging will not improve its overall value.”