The SAT is a standardised, multiple-choice entrance exam used by most American colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The SAT measures high school students’ readiness for college, and provides a common data point to compare all applicants. Until recently, it had been exclusively a pencil-and-paper exam.

However, in a major milestone for digital assessment, the College Board has announced that the SAT suite of assessments will be delivered digitally. The College Board develops and administers standardised tests as part of the American college admissions process.

The decision follows a pilot in November 2021 undertaken by the College Board, which piloted the digital SAT in the U.S. and internationally. It showed that 80% of students responded that they found it to be less stressful and 100% of educators reported having a positive experience.

From 2023, the SAT will be delivered digitally internationally and in the U.S. from 2024. While other countries have already implemented on-screen summative assessment, the scale of digitising the American SAT is unprecedented.

In a statement from their newsroom, the College Board confirmed that assessments will continue to be administered in a school or in a test centre with an invigilator present—not at home. Students and educators will get scores back in days, instead of weeks. And, to reflect the range of paths that students take after high school, digital SAT Suite score reports will also connect students to information and resources about local two-year college, workforce training programs, and career options.

The changes will also make the SAT more secure, the College Board claims. With the current paper and pencil SAT, if one test form is compromised it can mean cancelling scores for a whole group of students. Going digital allows every student to receive a unique test form, so it will be practically impossible to share answers.

Students who participated in the November global pilot of the digital SAT said the test experience was less stressful than the current paper and pencil test. In the same pilot, every test proctor (invigilator) who participated responded that the experience administering the digital SAT was the same or better than administering the current paper-and-pencil test. These improvements are especially important because students from all backgrounds increasingly are taking the SAT during the school day. In the class of 2021, 62% of students who took the SAT took it for free in their school on a weekday.[1] Research has shown that universal school day testing leads to higher college-going rates for low-income students.[2] The digitisation of the SAT provides an important milestone in the move towards on-screen summative assessment in high-stakes examinations. With one of the largest assessments in America going digital, in the coming months, AQi will be exploring lessons for policymakers on the transition to digital in high-stakes national assessments.

[1] Digital SAT Brings Student-Friendly Changes to Test Experience – Newsroom (collegeboard.org)

[2] https://www.brookings.edu/research/act-sat-for-all-a-cheap-effective-way-to-narrow-income-gaps-in-college/