Digital SAT

In response to the vast majority of college no longer requiring the SAT for admission and falling revenue from test administration, the College Board is launching its the Digital SAT in the United States starting in March of 2024. While delivered on a computer rather than on paper using a pencil, is the latest rejiggering of the the America’s largest non-curricular high-stakes bubble test better? Will the latest changes improve the accuracy of prediction for low income students, women or other underrepresented groups? 

Digital SAT

What is the Digital SAT?

The College Board has launched its latest update to the SAT, an adaptive 2-hour test of reading, grammar, and math. The test is delivered on a computer or tablet rather than on paper with pencil and scantron. This latest iteration of a test bearing the brand SAT is the third significant revision since 2005. Like with all former versions, The College Board claims it “measures the skills and knowledge that students are learning in school and that matter most for college and career readiness.”

While the digit SAT makes it more cost effective for the College Board to deliver and score tests, it doesn’t solve any problems for the schools, counselors, or students. The digital SAT still exhibits gender, race, and income disparities. The digital SAT still creates burdens on counselors and schools to provide free labor to the College Board. The digital SAT is still susceptible to test preparation.

The digital SAT will be the third major revision of the SAT to be introduced since 2015. This version of the test will be shorter, test fewer content areas, and is computer adaptive. Despite having fewer questions, the test is reported on the same scale in an effort to imply that it is comparable to previous versions. The digital SAT has 44 (40 scored) math question but 61 different scores possible from those 44 questions. Since 2005, the SAT has gotten 40% shorter but the score scale remains unchanged and the purported “accuracy” remains unchanged.

The College Board claims says the digial SAT “measures the skills and knowledge that students are learning in school and that matter most for college and career readiness.” Since the College Board removed passages longer than 150 words, the implication is that reading text longer than 150 words does not matter for college and career readiness. While almost every high school student takes a year of geometry, the digital SAT tests geometry concepts on less than 15% of the test (apparently colleges no longer require understanding of geometry). Further, the digital SAT also continues the trend of changing the number of questions but maintaining the 200 – 800 score scale.

The shorter the test the less likely it is to be a valid indicator of college readiness as fewer skills and content areas are being assessed. In the interest of marketing ease of use, the College Board has taken the already dubious and largely unsupported claim that the SAT is a valid measure of college readiness and weakened it. Saying the instrument is valid does not make it so.