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The SAT goes digital in the changing landscape of college admissions

The Associated Press

The SAT exam will move from paper-and-pencil to a digital format, administrators announced Tuesday, saying the change will strengthen its relevance as more colleges make standardized tests optional for admission.

Candidates will be allowed to use their own laptops or tablets, but they will still need to take the test at a supervised testing site or at school, not at home.

The format change is expected to roll out internationally next year and in the United States in 2024. It will also reduce the current version by one hour, bringing the reading, writing and mathematics from three hours to about two.

“The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of college readiness assessments at the College Board of New York, which administers the SAT and the associated PSAT. “We’re not just putting the current SAT on a digital platform. We’re taking full advantage of what providing a digital assessment makes possible.”

Once essential for college applications, admissions test scores like the rival SAT and ACT now carry less weight as colleges and universities pay more attention to the sum of achievements and student activities throughout high school.

Amid criticism that exams favor wealthy, white applicants and disadvantage minority and low-income students, a growing number of schools in recent years have adopted optional testing policies, which allow students to decide whether or not to include scores with their applications.

The pandemic accelerated the trend as testing sessions were canceled or inaccessible.

Nearly 80% of institutions granting bachelor’s degrees do not require test scores from students applying for fall 2022, according to a December tally from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a watchdog group that opposes to standardized tests. The group, known as FairTest, said at least 1,400 of them have extended the policy until at least the fall 2023 admissions cycle.

About 1.5 million members of the Class of 2021 have taken the SAT at least once, up from 2.2 million the previous year. A College Board survey found that many students want to take the SAT to retain the ability to submit scores and qualify for certain scholarships.

Rodriguez said the digital version will be delivered in a format more familiar to students who regularly learn and test online at school.

Additionally, Student Outcome Reports will not only focus on connecting students to colleges and four-year scholarships, but will also provide information on college and workforce training options. two-year work. This reflects an increase in the number of students receiving the exam on a designated SAT day at school, with some districts requiring students to take it. About 60% of students who take the SAT do so in school, Rodriguez said.

“We want to provide students with a wider range of information and resources about their post-secondary options,” she said.

Sheet music will be available in days rather than weeks, she said. There have been instances over the years where sets of paper exams have gotten lost in the mail.

“I thought the digital version was a lot less stressful than the paper and pencil version. It felt a lot more familiar,” said Natalia Cossio, 16, of Fairfax County, Virginia, who participated in a November pilot after having taken the PSAT on paper for the first time.

She said the digital format would solve some logistical issues she’s encountered, such as students bringing mechanical pencils instead of the required No. 2 variety, or advanced calculators that aren’t allowed. The digital version includes a basic calculator for the math section.

The College Board said students without a personal or school device will receive one for test day.