SAT transitions to online test

Changes include shorter test time, individual breaks


Alyssa Sanchez

The digital SAT is currently being piloted at schools across the country, including Glenbrook North on Sept. 24. The test features a built-in graphing calculator, allows breaks between sections at each student’s pace and allows students to flag questions as they go.

Offered a $50 gift card of their choice or a full refund on their $60 registration fee, students arrived at testing centers throughout the nation on Sept. 24 to participate in a pilot study for the digital SAT.

The SAT is scheduled to move online in the United States in the spring of 2024 and internationally in 2023.There are plans to have a built-in graphing calculator for both math modules, shorter reading passages and individual breaks for students based on when they finish each module. The digital SAT allows students to flag questions they want to come back to, and there is a timer that can be shown or hidden. The test is approximately two hours, which is about one hour shorter than the paper SAT.

The SAT is moving online because of input from educators and students, said Nicole Gibbs, senior director for external engagement with the College Readiness Assessment Division at College Board. 

The digital SAT will also reduce the number of responsibilities for educators before and after administration because they will not have to sort, pack and ship the tests, Gibbs said.

“We know that students are doing most and much of their learning and testing digitally, and the SAT should not be an exception,” said Gibbs. “We have been listening to input and adapting to really just ensure that we continue to meet the needs of students and educators.”

Glenbrook North participated in the pilot study on Sept. 24.

Senior Elizabeth Kercher participated in the study when she took the digital SAT at GBN.

“I think [the digital test is] definitely less intimidating,” said Kercher. “There’s no loud sound of paper rustling where someone flips the page and you’re like, ‘I haven’t gotten to that question yet,’ or the proctor saying, ‘Five minutes remaining’ and everyone suddenly freaks out. It’s definitely less stressful.”

According to Katie McKeown, GBN testing and accommodations coordinator, College Board reached out to GBN about participating in the pilot study because the school often hosts other College Board tests throughout the year.

Students at GBN are scheduled to take the state-mandated SAT in the spring of their junior year.

“For the state [SAT], it will be mandatory to use your school Chromebooks because if there’s technology issues, we need to be able to troubleshoot those on those devices,” McKeown said. 

According to Gibbs, the first pilot test was conducted in November of last year.

“But from that time … we certainly have made enhancements to the technology based on the feedback, which is kind of the goal of our pilots,” said Gibbs. “We wanted to hear areas where there needed to be enhancements and improvements, and as such, have taken that feedback very seriously, made technological enhancements as necessary, corrected any areas that needed to be corrected, and we will continue to do that.”

Kercher considers herself to be a student who does better on digital tests than paper tests.

“I left the room feeling much more confident in my answers than I had on paper tests,” said Kercher. “I felt that I was better prepared to answer the questions.”