The New dSAT: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The College Board has made huge changes to the SAT to keep up with the time. We have the scoop on those changes and how you can best prepare with the new SAT.

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As you gear up for college admissions, it’s essential to stay in the know about the latest updates to the SAT. In this article, we’ll explore the upcoming modifications to the SAT that will shape your testing experience. Let’s embark on this SAT journey together and so you are set up for success.

The Good: The SAT is changing to become more accessible and easier to take.

Here are some of the biggest changes:

  1. Embracing the Digital Era: The SAT is getting a tech-savvy makeover! Say goodbye to paper and hello to a digital format that will make your testing experience more engaging and intuitive. Not only will the new digital SAT provide on-screen calculators, highlighting tools, a digital countdown clock, and the ability to change answers readily, but it will also be adaptive. What does that mean? Based on how you perform during the first module of Reading & Writing and Math, you’ll receive performance-based questions based on the accuracy of your first module. So, in a way, your test is personalized to you and your abilities. We recommend familiarizing yourself with the digital testing platforms, practice using those techy tools, and adapt your test-taking strategies to this modern format. Students in the US will only be able to take the SAT digitally on tablet or laptop starting in 2024 (you don’t have to remember your No.2, but don’t forget your charger). 
  2. Targeted Improvement with Section Retesting: Good news, folks! Starting August 2023, you can supercharge your score improvement with section retesting. No need to retake the entire test. Instead, focus on specific sections where you want to improve. It’s like creating your own customized SAT experience, highlighting your strengths and maximizing your potential. Identify the areas that need a little extra love, and dedicate your efforts there. Section retesting is your secret weapon for showcasing your true abilities (and not to mention a time-saver). 
  3. Shorter and Sweeter: The SAT is getting a makeover that will save you some time and energy. Starting in 2024, the test will be shorter in duration (about two hours shorter). There are now only two sections, Reading & Writing and Math, instead of four. Also, test takers will only have to answer one question per reading passage, and the Reading & Writing section will only have one score unlike before where there were two subscores. Fewer questions mean a more efficient and streamlined testing experience. With a shorter test, you can maintain focus and give it your all from start to finish. Sharpen those time management skills, practice efficient test-taking strategies, and conquer the SAT with confidence.
  4. Farewell, Essay Section: Bid adieu to the SAT Essay section, starting in 2024. While some colleges may still require or recommend it, the essay will no longer be a standard component of the SAT. This change gives you the opportunity to focus solely on the core sections of the exam. Hone your skills in Reading, Writing and Language, and Math, and make those sections your shining glory. Remember to research the specific requirements of your dream colleges to ensure you’re meeting their expectations.
  5. Show Me The Scores!: Lastly, and maybe the most exciting is that scoring will be available much more quickly now that the test is digitized. This will help you know sooner if you need to retest or not. Not too shabby.

The bad: Big changes can mean big complications.

Here are some of the issues that we predict:

  1. Technological solutions, technological problems: While a paperless makeover has been a long time in the making, we predict a period of upheaval not unlike the Covid transition to online learning. On a rollout of this scale, we predict more than a few tech-related hiccups, from network connectivity issues to bugs in the programming. These types of bugs take time to iron out, but given the high-stakes nature of the SAT, we predict a lot of stress and frustration from students who get to experience this transitional period. 
  2. Incomplete data sets: The SAT is a helpful resource for colleges because it allows them to compare apples to apples. By now, college admissions officers know what a 1350 student looks like versus a 1450 student. But with a new test, it will take a few waves of applicants and corresponding scores to recontextualise what these numbers mean. 
  3. More reading: Based on the study materials that have been released, this new test appears to be quite heavy on the reading, even for the math questions. If you’re a student who struggles with reading, you might find yourself at a disadvantage.
  4. Fewer materials: Whereas the ACT has a mountain of available materials to help students prepare, those who are at the vanguard of the new SAT are basically flying blind. A year or two from now, the major test preparation companies and publishers will have developed plenty of new materials with which to study, but for now, we don’t have much to work with.
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The ugly: Changing the test doesn’t fix the problems associated with standardized testing.

I don’t want to soapbox too much, but I will quote myself from this article, which I published in 2021:

Aside from the SAT’s origins, which are rife with pseudo-science, eugenic principles, and overt racism-sexism-xenophobia, the practical reality of the situation is this: Black (and Latinx) folks routinely score lower on the SAT than do whites; moreover, they do not have access to expensive test preparation services that their wealthy counterparts do, and are more likely to be limited in terms of high quality education in schools, tutors, or the time and money to take the test over and over again (which, by the way, is further perpetrated by College Board’s stranglehold on the system and deep, profitable ties to NYC hedge funds). There are many articles on the racism of standardized testing that are far more comprehensive and succinct than my explanation here, and I would encourage everyone to spend some time checking these out

While the College Board swears that these changes are meant to promote equity and access, we are skeptical. It’s hard to imagine that someone with greater access to paid resources will still find themselves on equal footing to someone without.

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The bottom line: Consider ACT in the short term, remain cautiously optimistic about the future SAT

The digital format, section retesting, shorter test length, variable section order, and removal of the essay section are promising changes to the SAT. However, until there are sufficient materials, more data, and no technical kinks to work out, we recommend sticking with the ACT, which has remained largely the same for decades. Time will tell if the new SAT actually does promote equity while also serving as a useful tool for college admissions officers or if colleges will continue to expand test-optional or test-blind policies. 

For individual advice, schedule a consultation with one of our Admissions Angle mentors!

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