Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT
By Jen Carlevatti | Last Updated: Jun 22, 2022
Have you heard? The SAT is undergoing significant changes! From the length of the test to the format to the time it takes to get your scores, we’ve got the lowdown on the new SAT and when changes will go into effect.
How Is the New SAT Different?
Let’s start with what’s staying the same. The general format, content, and 1600-point scoring scale will not change. That said, here are the changes you CAN expect – and they’re surprisingly student friendly.
You’ll Take the Test on a Computer
The era of filling in answer bubbles with a No. 2 pencil is officially over – the new SAT will be an entirely computer-based exam. You’ll be able to use a computer at the testing center, or in some cases, bring your own laptop from home. If you don’t have access to a computer, one will be provided for you by the College Board.
Worried about what happens if the Internet goes down or there’s a power failure? Don’t be. All your work will be saved, and you won’t lose any time on the test.
One important note: The digital SAT must be taken at a test center with an in-person proctor. You will not be able to take the test at home, and there are no plans to allow students to test from home in the future. In fact, the College Board put the kibosh on home-based testing in 2021.
The New SAT Will Be Much Shorter
Aside from moving to a digital SAT, one of biggest changes is the length of the test. It’s been cut down by a third, so you’ll take the test in two hours instead of three. The new format hasn’t been released yet, but it’s reasonable to assume that each section will be slightly shorter.
You’ll Have More Time to Answer Each Question
Again, the final format of the digital exam hasn’t been released yet, but the College Board says there will be more time allotted for each question. The current test affords students between 47 seconds and 1 minute and 26 seconds to answer each question, depending on the SAT section. Increasing the amount of time per question should help alleviate the pressure to answer questions quickly so you don’t run out of time.
Calculators Will Be Allowed for the Entire Math Section
Wish you could use a calculator for all the math questions? Now you can! Currently, you can only use a calculator for one part of the math section. On the new online SAT, you’ll be able to use an onscreen calculator for the entire math section. Bonus: No more worrying about bringing the right calculator to the exam!
Reading Passages Will Be Shorter and Simpler
Today’s SAT contains six reading passages of approximately 500 to 750 words and 10 related questions. If that sounds intimidating, there’s good news – the new SAT will feature shorter reading passages, there will only be one question linked to each passage, and the passages will cover a wider range of topics. Easy peasy, right?
You’ll Get Your Scores Faster
Once the exam is over, the excruciating wait for score reports begins. Currently, students are waiting anywhere from two to six weeks to get their scores, and colleges don’t receive them until 10 days after you do. With the switch to a digital SAT, your wait time for scores will be cut down to days instead of weeks. In addition to reducing anxiety caused by long wait times, faster score reports may allow you to take (or retake) the SAT in December and still get your score reports in time to meet colleges’ application deadlines.
When Is the SAT Changing?
Nothing will change right away. The College Board says they don’t expect to implement the new SAT until sometime in 2023 for international students and sometime in 2024 for domestic students.
If you prefer the paper-and-pencil version of the test, you’ll have plenty of time to take it in the old format. Depending on when you’re applying to college, it might even be possible to take both versions of the test and see if you score better on one or the other.
Why Is the SAT Changing?
The College Board introduces changes to the SAT every few years, so this latest round of revisions isn’t unusual. There are a few specific reasons for this year’s announcement, however.
Some standardized tests such as the GRE and GMAT are already offered as a computer-based test, and many high schools currently administer tests on computers. It’s a format that students are already comfortable with, and as society continues to “go digital,” it’s a move that makes sense.
The upcoming changes are also seen as a response to the level of stress students feel about admissions testing. In trial runs conducted by the College Board in Fall 2021, shorter test times were shown to reduce testing fatigue, and more time to answer questions relieved some of the pressure to solve complex problems quickly. By making the testing experience less difficult (and expanding the free test prep materials available on Khan Academy), the College Board is also trying to make the test more equitable for minority and low-income students.
The COVID-19 pandemic also influenced the way colleges consider test scores in their admissions decisions. During the acute phase of the pandemic, test centers were shuttered for months, leading most colleges to go test optional. While it’s too soon to tell if test-optional admissions will become the new normal, it’s clear that a sizeable portion of colleges will make the move permanent.
By making the test a bit easier and less stressful, the College Board hopes students will continue to sit for the exam – and there are some good reasons to do so. Elite schools continue to require admissions exams, along with countless scholarship and state-aid programs. Good scores can also push an application to the top of the pile at a test-optional school or make up for a lackluster GPA.
For example, at the University of South Florida, SAT and ACT scores are still required to apply for admission, qualify for scholarships, and establish eligibility for the Bright Futures program. But the move to a shorter, digital test with more time per question, shorter reading passages, and use of an on-screen calculator should make the exam less onerous.
About Jen Carlevatti
Jen Carlevatti is the former Associate Director of Communications for USF’s Office of Admissions. Currently, she is a freelance Content Developer for USF’s Office of Innovative Education. She enjoys writing blog articles that empower students and their families to successfully navigate the college admissions and financial aid processes.