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What Students Think of the New All-Digital SAT

'It's not terrible'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 8, 2024 6:56 AM CST
SATs Are Now All Digital
Kynnedy Lewis watches her screen as she prepares for the digital SAT, Wednesday, March 6, 2024, at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School in Birmingham, Ala.   (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

As SAT season kicks off this weekend, students across the US for the first time will take it with computers and tablets—and not the pencils they've used since the college admissions test was introduced nearly a century ago, the AP reports. It's not unfamiliar territory for today's digital natives, but some are still warming up to the idea. "I've always been the type to do things on paper, so at first I didn't really like it, but it's not terrible," said one junior who has been practicing with a digital version. She likes a timer function that keeps her on track without having to watch the clock.

The digital test is an hour shorter but set up and scored the same way, with two sections—one math, the other reading and writing—worth up to 800 points each. It adapts to students' performance, with questions becoming slightly easier or harder as they go. Test-takers can use their own laptops or tablets but they still have to sit for the test at a monitored testing site or in school, not at home. To prevent cheating, students can't work in any other program or application while the test is running. "We didn't have to fill in the bubble sheet so we just had to focus on our screens the entire time," says another student of the digital version. "It made it easier to read the prompts and respond."

A third student said there are features that make the digital test feel familiar, like a highlighting option. But she said it's harder to mark up problems and passages because you can only make notes in the digital version in a text box off to the side. But there's also something less nerve-wracking about taking a test digitally. "With the paper test, especially because you're in a quiet room with the clock ticking up there silently, it definitely brings in the sense of an exam," she said. "With the digital SAT, I still knew it was an exam in my mind, but I was less anxious." (Of course, none of this changes the debate around the test's equity.)

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