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The SAT Exam Is Changing: Here’s What Students Need to Know

Starting in Spring 2024, all students will embark on their SAT Exam journey through the digital realm. However, international students will kick things off a year earlier in March 2023.

The metamorphosis of the SAT is rooted in two key rationales. Firstly, the digital format promises an examination experience that is not only more user-friendly but also simpler to administer. Secondly, these changes intend to bolster the test’s relevance. Gone are the days of evaluating time management and test-taking strategies; the focus now shifts squarely onto assessing students’ academic and college-preparedness skills.

Will changes to the SAT benefit students?

Undoubtedly, the transition to the digital SAT holds great promise for students. It offers enhanced accessibility, streamlined study preparation, and a more pertinent assessment of skills essential for college success. However, those unprepared for the shift may face challenges, making it prudent to utilize reliable resources such as the Peterson’s Master the SAT test prep book for adaptation.

Exploring the SAT’s Facelift

Most of the changes are designed to make the test more accessible for students, so even though things will look and function differently, they should ultimately be more approachable. The main change is that for both the Reading and Writing section and the Mathematics section, the test will be administered in two modules, each containing half of the total questions for that section. Your score on the first module will determine whether you get slightly harder questions in the second module (and are thus eligible for the highest scores) or if you get slightly easier questions in the second module (meaning you won’t be able to score higher than ~600/800 for that section). The test literally “adapts” to reflect your Module 1 performance, which is why it’s called an adaptive test.

Other changes include much shorter reading passages each accompanied by a single question (rather than longer passages accompanied by multiple questions), shorter word problems in math, and the ability to use calculators for the entire math section. In general, all questions on the test will be shorter and/or more direct than they’ve been in the past.

A quick overview of SAT changes:

  • The length of the exam has been shortened from 3 hours to 2 hours and 14 minutes
  • It will be administered on a digital device using an app called Bluebook (instead of on pencil-and-paper, except for those who need to do so as an accommodation)
  • The digital application will give students useful tools for navigating the test, like a built-in graphing calculator, highlighting capabilities, reference sheets, and more.
  • The three sections on the old SAT (Reading, Writing and Language, and Math) have been turned into two sections on the digital SAT: Reading & Writing and Mathematics
  • You will only be able to move between and answer questions in one module at a time. When the module is submitted, you can’t go back.
  • Testing is adaptive, meaning it will be customized for you based on your performance. No two students will have the exact same exam.
  • Students should receive their scores faster–in days rather than in weeks.

Digging Deeper into the SAT Reading Section

The integration of the Reading and Writing sections means a comprehensive Reading & Writing section, devoid of essay requirements. Each module comprises 27 questions encompassing Reading, Writing, and Language Use. Furthermore, students will engage with shorter passages (typically 25-150 words) accompanied by a single question, eliminating the multiple-question format of the past.

SAT Exam now only has two sections

Students should definitely be aware that once they complete the first module for a section, they will not be able to go back to it. You can move around within the module, but once it’s submitted, you can’t return to it. Furthermore, once the Reading and Writing section is complete, you will not be able to return to it even if you finish early for Math.

Once a module is complete, it’s final—there’s no revisiting. Moving within a module is permissible, but once submitted, it’s irrevocable. This principle applies not only to individual sections but also to the Reading and Writing section after its completion. Module 1 performance significantly influences the questions in Module 2, potentially determining the score’s upper limit (~600/800).

Will SAT Exam scoring be different?

Scoring remains consistent—correct answers contribute to your score, and there are no penalties for incorrect responses. However, Module 1 performance plays a pivotal role. Excelling in Module 1 unlocks the possibility of tougher questions in Module 2, which can lead to higher scores. Awareness of these dynamics is crucial for test-takers.

The score will be scaled based on the total number of questions you get correct, with no deduction for missed questions (which means it’s always a good idea to guess on questions you don’t know!). However, if a student does not perform well on Module 1, they will not be eligible for the highest scores in that section. It’s therefore very important that students do their best on Module 1 to access the possibility of those highest scores. It is helpful that the test adapts to a student’s actual skill level and knowledge points, but the modules have a big impact on scores so it’s important to be aware of how they affect scoring.

Digital SAT Exam: Rules of Taking Test

Even though students will now take the test on approved digital devices rather than pen-and-paper, the tests will still be proctored (meaning they’ll be monitored) and most of the rules for testing centers and school testing days remain the same. These rules include the following:

  • Students must arrive at the testing location on time with an acceptable Photo ID and admission ticket (printed or on mobile device). Students will not be permitted to begin testing late.

What to Bring:

  • A fully charged, approved testing device (device requirements on the College Board website).
  • Admission ticket.
  • An acceptable photo ID.
  • Pencils/pens for scratch work.
  • An approved calculator (if not using the built-in graphing calculator).

What Not to Bring:

  • Prohibited items like mobile phones (except for presenting an admission ticket), cameras, headphones/earbuds, and more.
  • Reading materials, highlighters, colored pens, and other prohibited items.
  • Arriving on time with an acceptable Photo ID and admission ticket is imperative; latecomers won’t be permitted to start the test.

How should students prepare for their SAT Exam?

With a standard test preparation book and various test preparation choices, you get both a pre-test and a post-test, empowering students to customize their study strategy according to their unique requirements. Additionally, students must gain entry to an adaptive-style digital practice test accessible.

To prepare effectively for the SAT, consider the invaluable resources.

  • Get an SAT test prep book and test prep subscription options.
  • Tailored study plans with pre- and post-test assessments.
  • Access to an adaptive-style digital test.
  • An array of supplementary resources in the online SAT course for comprehensive preparation.
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