Digital Natives Become Digital Guinea Pigs: How The Class of 2025 Should Think About the Digital SAT

Congratulations students (and families) of the Class of 2025: you and your peers will be the guinea pigs for the digital SAT! In the fall of 2023—the start of your junior year—you will take the PSAT in a new digital format. Then, in the spring of the same school year, the traditional paper-and pencil SAT will disappear for good, and your class will be the first to take the digital version of the exam. So what’s the best way to prepare for this change?

Let’s begin with three pieces of good news. First, there is nothing you need to do now. Students do not need to carve out specific time for SAT prep until the summer before their junior year at the earliest. Second, the best way to set yourself up for success on this new, computer-based SAT is to do what we’ve always suggested: work hard and retain what you learn in your high school classes. The SAT will continue to test you on fundamental math, grammar, and reading comprehension skills—the same skills you have been working on in your core academic classes all along. Third, the digital SAT will be about two hours long—a full hour shorter than the current paper-based version. If you have older siblings or friends, feel free to taunt them for having to withstand a more grueling test.

Most relevant to the here-and-now is that there is still so much that is unknown about the digital exam. Questions remain as to whether College Board will be able to meet their projected timeline, how the digital version will compare in practice with the current paper and pencil version, and how scores will compare (both objectively, in relation to current percentiles, and subjectively, in the eyes of colleges and universities) to those of the test’s current iteration. Official practice materials will not be available until this fall, when international students, who will start taking the digital SAT a full year earlier than their American counterparts, will need the materials to begin preparing for their upcoming exams. Therefore, any marketing you see between now and the fall that promises to help students prepare for the digital SAT should be treated with skepticism.

The most frequently asked question is this: will students have the option to take the test on paper and pencil? For the vast majority of students, the answer is “no”: only students who qualify for special accommodations due to specific learning differences will be able to take the SAT via paper and pencil. For most SAT test takers, then, it’s computer or bust.

For students and families concerned with the uncertainty of preparing for and taking the new version of the SAT, it’s important to remember that the ACT will also remain a viable option for students. While it’s possible that ACT could seize the opportunity to further expand their digital testing options (ACT currently uses digital testing for international students and certain school-day tests in the U.S) or possibly pursue other significant changes, it appears that, for now at least, ACT will continue to present students with the same paper and pencil version of the exam currently available. Both tests will continue to present unique challenges and advantages for students, however, so the choice of which test is the right fit will vary from student to student. 

Our goal is to make sure you are well-informed of the latest news in standardized admissions testing. As we learn more about this next iteration of the SAT, you can continue to turn to Method Learning for expertise and practical guidance.

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