Benefits of the New Digital SAT (dSAT)
Starting in 2024, the SAT will be fully online. College Board has been administering this new digital SAT for all international exams over the past year and the 2023 PSAT was fully digital. I wanted to start my series on the new digital exam by focusing on the positives.
In many ways the digital format promotes fairness. The computer keeps time, so all students will have the intended amount of time per section without the human error factor of relying on a proctor.
Because College Board does not need to print, ship, and store paper booklets ahead of time, the test questions are secure. The Varsity Blues scandal a few years ago highlighted the potential for cheating when educators who were supposed to keep the test secure and administer it fairly were bribed to give certain students an advantage. College Board has been fighting test security issues for years and switching to a digital exam resolves a lot of problems.
The outgoing paper and pencil exam was 180 minutes of tested material. Add in time for breaks and administration and the SAT took most students just under four hours to complete. (From 2005 to 2016 the SAT was about 30 minutes longer.)
It is hard to focus for three to four hours! I don’t think I had any school exams, even in college, that took that long. Thankfully the digital SAT will be shorter. Here’s the format for the digital SAT:
- 64 minutes Reading & Writing (two 32-minute sections)
- 10-minute break
- 70 minutes Math (two 35-minute sections)
That’s almost an hour shorter than the outgoing paper and pencil exam! This is a win for all students.
The new SAT has some potential benefits that you may or may not experience. Some of these are expected in the coming year and some are possibilities for the future.
The digital SAT has the potential for faster score return. We already saw this with the PSAT. My son took the digital PSAT at school on October 11 and had his scores November 8. It isn’t overnight scoring, but in the past PSAT scores took 5-6 weeks longer than they did this fall.
We will have to see how quickly scores are released this spring with the new SAT. I remember 2016 (and 2005) when scores took much longer for the first administration of a newly formatted SAT (think 8-12 weeks.) Hopefully, the digital format will result in even faster score return than we are used to with the paper and pencil test.
The next potential is NOT currently proposed by College Board, but I see it as a possibility in the near future. For the last six years College Board has offered seven national testing dates (Aug, Oct, Nov, Dec, March, May, June). Some students have been able to take a special administration of the SAT offered by their school, district, or program. Having a digital format that does not require printing of booklets, etc., could easily open up for testing opportunities. I’m thinking about the current administration of exams for graduate school (GRE, LSAT, GMAT, etc.) which added test dates once the exams were digital. Greater flexibility would benefit test takers.
There are definite benefits to the new digital SAT. I’m all in favor of increased fairness, a shorter exam, and faster score return. We may even see added testing opportunities in the future. Unfortunately, the digital SAT comes with some significant drawbacks. I will outline those in my feature article next week.
If you (or your student) took the digital PSAT and have feedback, good or bad, I’d love to hear it.