Student taking digital SAT

Busting the Myth That the Digital SAT Will be Easier

Already, our team is hearing the strangest rumor from parents. The rumor, so they’ve heard, is that the new digital SAT set to premiere in March 2024 will be easier than the current paper-based SAT. Where have they heard this? Around. It’s just a rumor. The other parents were talking about it. A teacher mentioned it.

Is There Truth to the Rumor?

So far as I am concerned, it’s not merely a rumor, it’s a myth. And it needs to be busted immediately. There is no evidence that the new digital SAT will be easier than the current paper-based version of the test. In fact, with every new edition of the SAT, going back the thirty plus years that our company has been tracking the test, it has never gotten easier.

 

The College Board updates the SAT every 8-12 years in order to keep up with new technology, new trends, and new educational theories. In 1994, many of the vocabulary puzzles were removed from the English side of the test and the open-response ‘grid-in’ questions were introduced to the math sides of the test. This did not make the test easier. In 2005, the dreaded quantitative comparisons were removed from the math side of the test while the level of math skills rose to include algebra 2. Simultaneously, an essay and grammar questions were added to the English side of the test. Neither change made the test easier. In 2016, the remaining vocabulary puzzles were removed completely from the English side of the test, the essay was altered to better reflect writing skills taught in schools, and the level of math on that side of the test increased to include a tiny handful of pre-calculus concepts while geometry disappeared from the test. None of these changes made the test easier.

New Digital SAT Components

The College Board has announced that the English side of the upcoming digital SAT will merge the two language arts parts of the current test, providing a mix of comprehension and grammar questions on each section. Additionally, the new test will utilize a series of short 100+ word passages, each followed by a single question, instead of the 400 to 900 word passages students currently encounter in the reading and grammar sections of the test. This single change may be the most obvious reason why some people believe that the new digital SAT will be easier, but the results will likely surprise those people.

On the math side, the College Board plans to reintroduce geometry questions to the digital SAT while slightly reducing the percentage of algebra and statistics questions that students will encounter. I advise you to ask any high school students you know if they think adding more geometry questions to the SAT will make it easier. I predict that they will not think that.

How Will This Affect Scores?

Finally, some people believe that Generation Z students will do better on a computer-based test than they have on the paper-based version of the SAT. My experience says the opposite. Even modern students do well with paper because they can jot notes and mark up passages directly onto the text of the test. This will be far more challenging on a computer, even if the College Board succeeds in making the test interactive and responsive to digital highlighting, as they have promised.

Taking a digital test with physical scratch paper is no better. Most students will be surprised by the amount of time lost to looking up and down, up and down as they move between the screen and the scratch paper.

Students will still need to prepare to take the digital SAT, just as they have done for the paper-based SAT for the last forty years.

 

Author: Jason Breitkopf

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