The SAT and PSAT come to the computer screen 

For the first time in the United States, the SAT, or the “Scholastic Aptitude Test”, and the PSAT will move away from their traditional paper-pencil format and will take a new, digital form. The digital PSAT is currently available to Dana students, as tenth and eleventh graders took it this past Thursday. 

According to Ella Stoll ’25, an eleventh-grader at Dana Hall, “The paper version had a long section of text and then the questions after which made it harder to find my answers efficiently. But the digital test had shorter passages and only one question at a time, so it felt easier and more efficient”. The digital SAT’s release is soon to follow, with it planned to go into use in the U.S. in the spring of 2024.

Additionally, this change to a digital format is permanent. The College Board announced that it is “making a full transition to digital” and will “no longer offer a paper and pencil version of the tests”. 

This transfer onto a screen isn’t the only thing that’s new. Instead of a 3-hour paper test, the digital form test will be 2 hours long. 

Another change is how the test will now adjust as the student completes it. The College Board says, “Based on how students perform on the first module, the second module of questions will either be more difficult or less difficult”. This is a considerable shift from the paper version, as it did not change in the midst of being taken. 

While this change into the digital world is due to many different reasons, a notable motive from the College Board is their focus on business. Cara Hanig, the director of college counseling at Dana Hall School, states, “Every time there’s a shift or a change, the balance goes back and forth. The ACT is not going digital this year, but I’m assuming it’s only a matter of time before that happens”. 

Although similar, the ACT and SAT are separate companies that compete for publicity and an advantage over the other. In this case, the SAT going digital is a strategic move to gain the upper hand and more engagement from testers this year and in future years.

In the history of the SAT, students have taken the test to gauge their academic abilities and IQ since 1900, though it wasn’t until 1948 that SATs were taken in the context of a college admissions process. Despite the general image and goal of the SAT remaining the same, this original version bears little resemblance to the paper format that is soon to be discontinued. This format includes 52 reading questions, 35 writing and language questions, and 80 math questions with a 180-minute duration.

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