From Paper to Screens, the SAT is Changing


(Graphic by Ella Sherry)

The SAT— a three-hour long college admissions test that focuses on concepts in math, reading, writing and language —is undergoing major changes that will be put into effect in 2024 for U.S. students. 

“The College Board is going digital as a new way to market their product in an increasingly test free/test optional world of college admissions,” College and Career Center director Joanne Lewis said. 

Some changes include the test going completely online to reach more students worldwide, shortening the total time to two hours instead of three, smaller reading passages and allowing students access to calculators on the entire math section. 

An additional change is the test becoming “section-adaptive.” 

“[This] means that each subject will be divided into two sections,” Lewis said. “Based on a student’s performance in the first section, an algorithm chooses the appropriate difficulty for the second section. This is not going to benefit the students who might make a careless mistake on one of the first section questions, as it will bring them to questions in the second section of less difficulty that will not score as high as they might have had they not made that error in the first section of the test.” 

For students who haven’t taken the SAT yet, the new changes are both beneficial and slightly detrimental. 

“I’m not a big fan of the test going online because I prefer doing things on paper,” freshman Michelle Nikmehr said. “Some of the [changes] sound good, though.” 

The changes might also affect how students will study for the test. 

“[I think] it will be way harder to study for as it’s a brand new test no one has taken yet so there aren’t past tests to study from,” junior Ainsley Schmitz said. 

For students who have already taken the pen-and-paper test, these changes would have been helpful. 

“I would have rather taken a shorter test and I would’ve loved a calculator on all the math questions,” Schmitz said. 

Overall, these new changes are going to affect the future of the SAT. With most colleges now test-optional, the SAT is becoming less relevant for applying to schools. 

“I am not an advocate for any of these college entrance exams as it’s in very rare cases that one of these exams will actually ‘benefit’ a student,” Lewis said. 

“Ultimately, the SAT and ACT are businesses that want to survive, so for me, this is just a remake of an old product that is increasingly becoming less important, and hopefully eventually obsolete. [But] if I must choose today, I’ll say that the shorter, digital version is going to be better for students. I’m hoping the cost comes down as there’s no longer millions of paper tests being created and mailed all over the world.

“I think it’s going to be an improved testing experience for students in that it brings the test into the 21st century digital age and students are far more comfortable with that format.”