US college admissions embrace change with digital SAT

The SAT exam in the United States will transition to a digital format next month. The changes aim to make the exam shorter and more accessible to administer, with increased student flexibility.

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The (Scholastic Assessment Test) SAT is transitioning to a digital format in the US next month, marking a significant shift in standardised testing for college admissions. The move aims to streamline the exam, making it shorter, more manageable to administer, and providing increased flexibility for students. While the 1600-point scale remains, the test will now predominantly take place on laptops or tablets at schools or test centres, reducing the testing time to 2 hours and 14 minutes compared to the traditional 3-hour test.

Piloted internationally last spring, the digital SAT allows students to take the exam at their own pace, with the Bluebook application managing the test. Adaptive testing is introduced, where each student encounters the same initial module with varying difficulty levels, followed by a second module tailored to individual performance. This adaptive approach aims to provide accurate and reflective scores, with results expected in approximately five days.

The technology requirements for the digital SAT include Wifi-connected devices like school-managed Chromebooks, personal or school-managed Windows or Mac laptops, and tablets. Students need access to a device to request one from the College Board, although it’s not guaranteed. The transition to digital testing comes at a time when over 80% of four-year colleges and universities for fall 2025 applicants won’t require SAT/ACT scores, according to FairTest. Test-optional policies have gained traction, with 4% of Common App member schools requiring test scores in the current application season, down from 55% in 2019-20.

Critics argue that overreliance on standardised testing perpetuates less diverse student cohorts, emphasising that no test can accurately predict a student’s potential or assess the school system’s effectiveness. Furthermore, research indicates a correlation between SAT performance and wealth, prompting some elite schools to reintroduce test requirements as they move away from pandemic-era test-optional policies.