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The Lafayette Ledger

Going Digital: The New SAT

No More Scribbling in Scantron Bubbles
The SAT has long been used to gauge students potential college success.
The SAT has long been used to gauge students’ potential college success.

As of March 9th, 2024 (nationally) the Paper and Pencil SAT is no more. It’s now all on the computer, but its not as simple as translating each question to the screen; some significant changes were made to its fundamentals. Reasoning from the CollegeBoard states digital tests are more secure and easier for schools to administer. They credit Covid for allowing them to devote resources to a digital test and showing them it was possible. So what has changed?

Get this, the SAT, poster child for standardized tests, is no longer standardized. That is right, they have adopted a new multistage adaptive system. There are now two modules for reading and two modules for math. The second module of each section adapts its difficulty based on how the test taker performed on the first module. According to College Board this should not affect a students score, it is simply a way to speed up the same process. While that is true and great, it’s an hour shorter, I cannot imagine this test remains parallel with its predecessor.

Real (not real) footage of the least hard math question on the March 9th SAT.

I took the test. I’m in AP Calculus. I guessed on more than 10 of the 22 question second math module. I do not know what superfreak geniuses they had conjuring up these mathematical riddles, but I could not for the life of me understand what most of them were asking. If you are sitting here reading this thinking “Nahhh it wasn’t that bad,” then you either failed the first module and got handed easy questions or you are one of those geniuses I was talking about. It was not similar to questions from past SATs or college board provided practice materials. Other than that second math module, the rest was on par with what I expected.

Another aspect they changed was how the Reading and Writing section worked. On the paper and pencil test students were given 9 passages with numerous comprehension/grammar questions for each one. These long passages didn’t render well on screen, though,  so the digital SAT consists of 50 short passages with one corresponding question each. It also appears there is a significantly smaller emphasis on vocabulary. Personally, I did not find much of a difference in the comfortability of either of these methods so it does not seem like too big of a deal.

This shift to computers came with some other substantial changes. The length, content, and type of questions are now different than they used to be. Could these changes have an impact on students scores? Will this test cycle have skewed results? I suppose we will all know soon, March 22nd, when scores release.

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