D⁠i⁠d ⁠t⁠he SAT jus⁠t⁠ ge⁠t⁠ eas⁠i⁠er?

March 13, 2024

Bryce Fiedler

CALN Founding Member & CALN Board of Directors Secretary

A Top View of Laptop and Test Paper on the Table

The SAT is ditching pencil and paper. That’s right, in a move that took effect Saturday, March 9, the nation’s premier college admissions exam is now offered to students entirely on computers and tablets.  

The College Board, which owns the SAT and created other programs such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses, first announced the change in 2022, following disruptions to testing arising from COVID.  

The switch comes at an interesting time, according to Inside Higher Ed, as colleges decide whether to keep the SAT optional for admissions (another COVID-era change) or make it a requirement once more. Dartmouth College in February announced it was reinstating a mandatory SAT or ACT policy for applicants. More universities could follow suit, if they haven’t already.  

There are other changes, too, which arguably make the exam easier. The test is now shorter, and students have more time for each question, according to the New York Times. Reading passages have also been trimmed down. On the exam’s math portion, students are provided an online graphing calculator.  

Why the changes? The Times reports:

The College Board said its piloting of the exam showed it was just as rigorous as the paper test, but less intimidating for students. And those with A.D.H.D. and dyslexia, as well as those learning English, reported that they were “better able to maintain their focus” on the digital test, compared with the earlier format, said Jaslee Carayol, director of communications for the College Board. 

Delivering the test digitally will also reduce the possibility of cheating, the College Board said, because few students will receive the exact same exam. 

However, not everyone agrees with the overhaul. English teachers point out that in today’s climate of pervasive social media and shrinking attention spans, students should be encouraged to improve their reading stamina. I tend to agree. The test is not meant to be easy or streamlined; rather, it is designed to measure academic ability and readiness for higher education.  

So long as that remains the goal, test-makers should avoid changes to make it less challenging or rigorous.