To digitalize or not to digitalize

The College Board has shifted from a paper and pencil test to a completely digital test. Read more about the significant changes made to this standardized test.

Some students dislike the digital option. Luke Shepard ’24 would prefer paper, because “taking tests on paper allows me to focus on the questions rather than the world around the tab.” | Graphic by Emma Liu ’22/Staff

January 25, 2022, College Board made a decision that will alter the way students take standardized tests. They announced that, starting in 2024, students will take the SAT digitally at a testing center, and the format of the test will be changed. The overall test will take two hours instead of three. Shorter reading passages will give students more time to answer each question, and a calculator will be permitted on all math sections of the test. Additionally, the new use of technology allows students to receive their score faster, in hopes of reducing the anxiety of the impending results. 

This switch from paper and pencil to digital testing is being made to try and meet students’ needs while testing on more relevant information. It may also help students test in a way that they are used to and more comfortable with. Gabby Tepper-Waterman ’23 says, “I would have loved to take the SAT digitally rather than on paper. After doing virtual school for the past year, it was a difficult transition to the lengthy paper and pencil test. I wasn’t used to working for that many hours in a mask and was exhausted and frustrated throughout the test.” Such long tests are grueling for students, so the switch to a digital, shorter version aims to help students perform better. Alina Morin ’23 says, “Though I would rather take the test on pencil and paper because I get easily distracted on the computer, there is a large advantage of the digital tests as they are shorter and will allow students to stay focused throughout the entirety of the test.”

While the switch to online tests provides many benefits, it also comes with challenges. For starters, not every student has access to technology, so testers that do not have their own device will have to use a device provided by College Board on test day. Each student device will need to have a secure browser installed to ensure that there is no cheating. The test has also been made so that if a student loses internet connection, their work will save and they will not lose time. 

Overall, this adjustment is an effort to make standardized testing less dreadful and provide an easier experience for all. As the question over the importance of standardized testing has been raised over the years, the switch to digital SATs may pioneer a change in the role testing plays in students’ lives and the amount of pressure it puts on them. Will this cause AP tests to become digital? Will standardized tests start to lose significance or no longer be used? The results of these new SATs will provide an insight into the future of testing and if it will be modified for good. 

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