SAT goes digital

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Robert Strock ’23

The College Board is taking advantage of new technology to move testing online, notably the SAT, which made its digital appearance on our campus in September of 2022, followed by a digital PSAT in October. Last fall, Strake Jesuit offered both tests in the new format.

The idea for a digital SAT started with the COVID epidemic when testing was frequently suspended. The College Board wanted to explore ways to keep testing available without risking the students’ health and offered at-home digital AP tests in 2020. The College Board decided to extend the digital format to the PSAT and SAT offered at school locations to make these tests shorter, easier to administer, and more fair to students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. In addition to these advantages, many students find the online test easier to read and prefer to type responses.

The digital SAT and PSAT use Bluebook, a new web app that allows students to take tests on the iPad without the risk of cheating–each student’s test is unique. The website allows a faculty advisor to lock the iPad from access to any other apps, including the Internet, so that the only thing that can be on the screens is the test.

Xavi Gallart ’24 took the digital SAT and had this to share about the test:

I do not think the digital SAT is harder or easier than the pencil and paper SAT; I think that the Digital SAT focuses on different things than the old SAT. This is mostly true for the writing and reading sections. Rather than having 4 or 5 longer excerpts from a research paper, short story, or historical document, each question on the Digital SAT has its own short excerpt. No need to flip back to lines 26-52. The question is giving you the excerpt right in front of you. There were also different styles of questions on the writing and reading portions, and they were never seen before on the old SAT. For example, the question would give you a list of bullet points with one sentence of information per point, and the question would ask something like, “If a student would want to write on [insert subject here], how would this student want to order his ideas or would he have sufficient information to write on this subject?” This all may seem easier, but I still found myself as challenged as the old SAT. For the math section, I found it much easier mostly because the test supplied a Desmos graphing calculator, so for questions that require you to match an equation with its respective graph, it is basically a guaranteed correct answer if you can use the calculator correctly.

When asked about how the administration of the new online testing at Strake Jesuit went, Dr. Clinton, our SAT and ACT testing coordinator, explained that it was “very successful with no issues whatsoever. The students would take the test on Bluebook, which would lock their iPads the moment testing began.”

With the success of the online PSAT and SAT, the College Board will be offering digital AP tests this spring as an option. Dr. Clinton is enthusiastic about what the future of online testing may hold.

“The College Board anticipates that all its testing will be online by spring 2024,” he said.

Before long, all of the College Board tests we have taken on paper will move to our iPads.

As of now, the ACT is not moving towards a new, fully digital test.