How a fully digital SAT could change testing for high schoolers

Published by
Keshava Badri

No more sharpening pencils or mistakenly half-marking bubbles on scantron sheets. Instead, students will soon be seated in front of computer screens to tackle exams with a different testing style. 

In the evolving landscape of standardized testing, the SAT is soon going fully digital, with the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) already online.

Starting in March 2024, the SAT will officially leave behind the traditional paper and pencil format that generations of students have come to know. The PSAT and SAT will be adaptive tests, with four modules consisting of two English and two math sections. The test is adaptive because the first module of each section is meant to gauge a student’s ability, and then the second module adapts to give appropriately leveled questions based on how the students did in the first module.

Michelle Printz, the exam prep coordinator at Issaquah’s Huntington Learning Center, said that going digital has its pros and cons. It may level the playing field for many students but can be less appealing to others.

“The new adaptive test makes the test less verbose in the English and math sections, and is more mainstream to students who are not familiar to American culture,” Printz said. “However, from what I have seen, more students prefer physical tests because of their ability to easily mark anything on the paper.”

For students who have taken the digital test, many think this change is in the right direction. For Skyline High School junior Sreekara Rayipeddi, 16, the online test comes with its advantages such as the tools it provides to flag questions or to cross out answer choices to narrow them down on multiple choice questions.

“These tools help create a more user-friendly environment, in contrast to the traditional PSAT where students would try to figure out how much time is left, circling the numbers of questions and later hunting for them across the test booklet,” Rayipeddi said. “The adaptive test tones down the intensity that was previously there.”

Skyline High School Junior Marek Boic, 16, also agreed that the digital test was easier and more accessible to students. According to Boic, there was less time pressure, making it easier to perform better.

“The digital PSAT only gave me short paragraphs with a single accompanying question, it was much easier, faster, and accessible to find an answer within the digital test,” Boic said.

According to Printz, due to the ambiguity in how the test is graded, it is harder to prepare for the test. This makes the test more equitable because paid coaching may not give the student as much of a competitive edge as it did before.

“How the test is graded is unknown and that makes it difficult to study for it or know what to do to get better… but the difficulty is the same as previous tests,” Printz said. “The potential for this test in increasing accessibility is high and it can hopefully change how we view tests at the high school level.”

Click here to learn more about the SAT going digital.

Keshava Badri

Keshava Badri is a running start student at Skyline High School who goes to Bellevue College will graduate in 2025.  He is the Education reporter for the Sammamish Independent    

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