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The SAT exam is now fully digital

The SAT college admissions exam is now entirely online.

Rather than filling in a bubble answer sheet with a No. 2 pencil, US test-takers will be using a computer. US test-takers will use the fully digital version of the SAT on Saturday, March 9.

Prospective college students are still required to go in person to a testing site, but they will take the exam on their personal laptop or tablet, a school-issued device or a borrowed device from the College Board, the non-profit organization that develops and administers the test.

The exam is also shorter – down to about two hours instead of three – and more time can be spent on each question. There are shorter reading passages, with one question tied to each, and a built-in calculator.

The new SAT is also what the College Board calls “adaptive.” This means that both the math and reading sections will be divided into two parts. The second section will be easier or harder depending on how the test-taker performed in the first section.

The exam will still be scored on a 1600-point scale, and the College Board has said that students won’t be disadvantaged if they are routed to an easier second section.

Students will get scores back in days, instead of weeks.

The changes were announced by the College Board about two years ago after testing a pilot version of the digital SAT in the fall of 2021. Students testing outside the US officially started taking the digital SAT in the spring of 2023, and the PSAT, a shorter exam taken by younger students to qualify for scholarships or as practice for the SAT, was made digital last fall.

More than 1.9 million students in the high school class of 2023 took the SAT, up from 1.7 million the year before, according to the College Board.

The increase in SAT exam takers came even as many schools have made it optional for students to submit scores from the SAT or ACT, another standardized test used for college admissions. The trend accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic when schools and testing centers were shuttered. In fact, 2,025 US four-year colleges and universities did not require test scores from those applying for the fall 2024 semester.

But recently, some elite schools like Brown University, Yale University and Dartmouth College have announced that they will be reversing course and requiring students to include test scores with the applications in future years.

Some critics argue that standardized tests put lower-income students at a disadvantage because they may not have the time or resources to prepare for the test. But Brown, Yale and Dartmouth said that looking at test scores, along with high school grades, is a good predictor of students’ future academic success and can help their schools bring in a diverse set of students.

Students must register to take the SAT exam – and will also need to sign up at least 30 days ahead of time if they need to borrow a device from the College Board. The test is administered on Saturdays, though some high schools give students the option to sit for the exam during the regular school day.

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