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SAT Goes Digital

Last year I attended the Texas Association for College Admissions Counselor conference. Even though I do not help students get into college, it’s important to stay informed about the college landscape. The College Board gave a presentation on the upcoming transformation from paper and pencil PSAT/SAT tests to digital and high school counselors were not happy. However, reviews from overseas have been positive for the international roll out which is great news. The paper-based SAT will only be given until December, making a full transition in spring 2024. Below is a summary, based on the College Boards website/review documents I wanted to share which I’ve hyperlinked for reference too.

Implementation Timeline

We’ll make the transition from paper and pencil to digital at international test centers in the spring of 2023 and at U.S. schools and test centers in the spring of 2024.

All students will take the PSAT™ 8/9 and PSAT/NMSQT® digitally starting in fall of 2023, followed by the digital PSAT™ 10 in spring of 2024.

Most students who take the SAT for the first time do so in the spring of their junior (11th grade) year. For students testing internationally, those in the graduating class of 2024 will be the first to take the digital SAT. In the U.S., students in the graduating class of 2025 will be the first class to take the digital test.

What is Changing?

Suite-level changes

· The biggest difference is the SAT will now be given through a digital app called Bluebook.

· The digital SAT Suite assessments are substantially shorter than their paper and pencil predecessors—lasting 2 hours and 14 minutes instead of 3 hours.

· Test takers have more time, on average, to answer each question, meaning that, more so than ever before, the digital SAT Suite tests are measures of students’ skills and knowledge, not test-taking speed.

· Students and educators will receive scores faster—in days instead of weeks.

· In addition to the many ways that the current SAT Suite connects students to opportunities they’ve earned through their hard work, digital SAT Suite score reports will connect students to information and resources about local two-year colleges, workforce training programs, and career options.

· The tests will be more secure. Currently, if one test form is compromised, it can mean canceling scores for whole groups of students. Going digital allows us to give every student a highly comparable but unique test form, so it will be practically impossible to share answers.

· States, schools, and districts will have much more flexibility for administering SAT Suite tests.

Section-level Changes


· The digital assessments have a single Reading and Writing section instead of separate Reading and Writing and Language Tests. This shift allows us to measure English language arts and content area literacy knowledge and skills more efficiently while acknowledging the reciprocal, mutually reinforcing nature of reading and writing skills and knowledge.

· The digital SAT Reading and Writing section will feature many shorter passages instead of a few long texts, meaning students will see a wider range of topics that represent the kinds of works they’ll read in college. At the same time, these shorter passages maintain the level of rigor of longer reading passages in terms of text complexity and grounding in academic disciplines.

· A single (discrete) question is associated with each passage (or passage pair) instead of having several questions associated with a small number of long passages.


· Calculators are allowed throughout the Math section. A single Math section replaces the separately timed no-calculator and calculator-allowed portions of the paper and pencil SAT Suite Math Tests. This change allows the Math section to more accurately reflect how calculators are used in schools and in the real world. It also eases test administration by eliminating separately timed test portions with different rules. Students may continue to use their own approved calculator on test day or take advantage of the graphing calculator built directly into the testing application. The math section will now be allowed to use approved calculators on both math tests.

· The average length of in-context questions (“word problems”) has been reduced. In context questions still serve a valuable role in the Math section, as they assess whether students can apply their math skills and knowledge to both academic and real-world situations. However, College Board has listened to feedback that longer contexts posed barriers that could inhibit some students, often but not only English learners, from demonstrating their core math achievement.

Multistage Adaptive Testing

The digital SAT Suite will utilize a multistage adaptive testing (MST) methodology. Adaptive testing has been used for large-scale digital standardized assessments for nearly 40 years. Being adaptive means, we can fairly and accurately measure the same things with a shorter test while preserving test reliability.

In a multistage adaptive SAT Suite test, each test section (Reading and Writing; Math) is divided into two equal-length and separately timed stages, each composed of a module of questions. As illustrated in figure 1, students begin each test section by answering the set of questions in the first module. This module contains a broad mix of easy, medium, and hard questions that allows students to demonstrate their achievement before moving on to the second module. The questions in this second module are broadly targeted to the test taker’s achievement level based on how they perform in the first module; questions are either (on average) higher difficulty or lower difficulty than questions in the first module. This means that the test “adapts” to present questions that are more appropriate to a student’s performance level.

MST testing benefits students in several ways. First and foremost, it results in shorter tests that retain the precision and reliability of longer (linear) tests. This is because question difficulty in the second module of each section is personalized based on student performance in the first stage, resulting in a more efficient assessment and a more tailored experience for each student. Second, unlike in most question-by-question adaptive testing The Digital SAT Suite of Assessments Specifications Overview 10 models, students taking one of the digital SAT Suite tests can navigate freely through a given module’s questions, previewing upcoming questions or marking earlier questions to return to as time permits.

Section Breakdown and Timing

Each assessment in the digital SAT Suite is composed of two sections: Reading and Writing and Math. Students have 64 minutes to complete the Reading and Writing section and 70 minutes to complete the Math section.

Each section is composed of two equal-length modules of test questions. Each Reading and Writing module lasts 32 minutes, while each Math module lasts 35 minutes. Each module is separately timed, and students can move backward and forward among questions in a given module before time runs out. When time runs out on the first module of each section, the test delivery platform moves students to the second module. When students complete the Reading and Writing section, they are moved to the Math section after a 10-minute break between the sections. A small number of indistinguishable, unscored items are included in each section to aid with the test development process.

Total testing time for the digital SAT Suite is 2 hours and 14 minutes for each assessment (SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9).

What is Staying the Same?

The digital SAT Suite will continue to measure the skills and knowledge that students are learning in school and that matter most for college and career readiness. The suite will continue to be scored on the same score scale as the paper and pencil tests they are replacing (for example, the SAT will continue to be scored on the familiar 400–1600 scale), and the SAT and PSAT-related assessments will continue to be linked through a vertical score scale that allows students and educators to meaningfully track growth across the suite.

The two sections of the digital SAT Suite: (1) Reading and Writing and (2) Math—also measure largely similar knowledge and skills as their paper and pencil predecessors, including:

· Use of reading/writing passages across a range of academic disciplines and text complexities.

· Required demonstrations of command of evidence, both textual and quantitative. § Emphasis on high-utility words and phrases in context.

· Focus on revising and editing writing to improve the effectiveness of expression, achieve specified rhetorical goals, and demonstrate command of core conventions of Standard English sentence structure, usage, and punctuation.

· Continued focus on the math that matters most for college and career readiness and success.

· Math problems in (and out of) context.

· Use of both multiple-choice and student-produced response question formats in the Math section.

College Board remains strongly committed to the validity and fairness of our assessments— ensuring that our tests measure what they’re intended to measure and that the tests afford an equal opportunity to all test takers to show their best work. As with the paper-based suite, test fairness considerations are at the foundation of the design, development, and administration of the digital SAT Suite.

The digital SAT Suite will retain strong alignment to state academic standards. And while the digital SAT Suite will simplify the test-taking process and be an easier experience for students and educators, it will maintain the rigor of the current paper and pencil tests.

Reeder Consulting: College and Career Paths is a specialist in the career development field and the #1 career counseling company in San Antonio, TX working with clients in all 50 states. We help individuals engage in career and aptitude testing to process information through meaningful conversations and give clarity to the stress of career decisions to Proceed with Confidence.


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