News and Commentary

The SAT Is About To Be Shorter, Easier, And Completely Online

No more worrying whether your No. 2 pencils are sharpened.
NEW YORK - JUNE 27: SAT test preparation books sit on a shelf at a Barnes and Noble store June 27, 2002 in New York City. College Board trustees decided June 27 to add a written essay and other changes to the SAT in an overhaul of the college entrance exam. The first administration of the new SAT will occur in March of 2005. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images

No more sharpened No. 2 pencils or making sure bubbles are filled in completely.

The SAT, the hours-long standardized test that for decades has loomed over high schoolers’ heads during college preparation, is about to get shorter and go digital.

Beginning in 2024 for U.S. students, the test will be shortened to two hours instead of the current grueling three hours, and it will allow more time per question. The new SAT will also feature shorter reading passages with one question per passage, and students will be allowed to use a calculator for the math section.

The new SAT will also be online, although it will still be administered in-person at schools and test centers. However, students will be able to choose whether they want to use their personal tablet or laptop or a school device. In addition, the new test will speed up the turnaround time for students to get their scores from weeks to days.

The College Board, the organization that develops and administers the test, said that a November pilot of the digital SAT found that 80% of students said they found the newly structured test to be less stressful, and 100% of educators said they had a positive experience with the new test.

“The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, the College Board’s vice president of College Readiness Assessments, said in a news release announcing the changes.

“With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs,” Rodriguez said.

After the pandemic disrupted in-person test-taking, many colleges made SAT scores optional for admission.

“In a largely test-optional world, the SAT is a lower-stakes test in college admissions,” Rodriguez said. “Submitting a score is optional for every type of college, and we want the SAT to be the best possible option for students.”

Some students who have tried out both versions of the test said they found the digital, shorter SAT much more manageable.

“I definitely preferred that format with the shorter passages, just because it was a lot easier to read and easier to stay focused,” a high school junior from Alexandria, Virginia told the New York Times. “I also felt less drained at the end.”

“It felt a lot less stressful, and whole lot quicker than I thought it’d be,” said another high school junior from Fairfax County, Virginia who participated in the digital pilot. “The shorter passages helped me concentrate more on what the question wanted me to do. Plus, you don’t have to remember to bring a calculator or a pencil.”

The SAT has been criticized in recent years for putting low-income and minority students at a disadvantage, the argument being those students do not have access to expensive test prep materials. The College Board initially defended the old test, saying students who did well on the test would get a boost that they might not get solely from their GPA.

Students will also get information about alternatives to college when they get their SAT scores back. The College Board will connect students to information and resources about local two-year colleges, workforce training programs, and career options, the College Board said.

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