Big changes are coming to the SAT. International students debuted the adaptive, digital version of the exam in March 2023. U.S. students will make the conversion from pen and paper to this new digital exam in March 2024.
This overhaul will have significant implications for Class of '25 students. Here, we outline some of the key changes and important considerations for the Class of '25.
4 Key Changes
1. Digital. Instead of taking the exam with pencils and paper, you'll now use College Board's new testing app, Bluebook. With features like annotations, answer-elimination, countdown clock, and mark for review (flag questions that you wish to revisit), the app has several tools that should help ease this transition. But there is no way around it: this will be a very different experience.
2. Adaptive. Your performance on the baseline sections of the Reading/Writing and Math will determine whether you proceed to the easier or more challenging adaptive sections. For example, the baseline Reading/Writing will consist of 27 questions and the Math section will consist of 22 questions. You'll need to get more than "x" number of questions correct in order to be directed towards the harder section in each. That "x" value might be 19 for Reading and 14 for Math (or something close to those numbers). The exact threshold is just an estimate in order to give you some sense of what this will look like.
So why does this matter? Your performance on the baseline will determine how high or low you can ultimately score. For example, according to our colleagues at Applerouth, a student who makes it into the harder math section but then proceeds to get everything wrong might score no lower than 500. A student who does not make it into the harder math section but then proceeds to get everything right might max out at a 650. Again, these numbers are approximations. But you see why making it into the harder adaptive section matters!
3. Shorter. The new SAT is just over 2 hours, which should be a welcome change from the current 3+ hour version.
4. Different Emphasis. The new test will look significantly different...
• The Reading section says farewell to the 80-90 line passages that were accompanied by sets of 10-11 questions. Instead, passages are now short and accompanied by a single question. In addition, they are now grouped by type (i.e. Vocab-in-Context, question type 1.6 in the Peak method) rather than randomly. The implications are significant: working memory and annotations become less important than analysis of the text and recognition of author's tone. In addition, vocabulary take on a more important role. This isn't the type of vocabulary that existed back in the 80s, 90s, and early 00s. Rather, we are talking about "functional vocabulary" and "contextual use of words."
• The Writing section is now fully integrated into the Reading, so for the first time this truly is a Reading/Writing section (in the current version, Reading and Writing contribute to one score but are separated into two distinct sections). Writing questions, which in the past were 60% about grammar and 40% about rhetorical decisions, might wind up skewing slightly more towards the rhetorical decisions. Logical transitions (question type 2.2 in the Peak method) take on heightened prominence in some of the already released digital versions.
• The new version of Math will feature only 44 questions (down from 58 on the current version). In addition, the math questions have become less wordy, which should be a welcome change for students who prefer the more straightforward ACT math questions. While you can still use your graphing calculator, you will now have an on-screen graphing calculator as well. And to the delight of most students, you will be able to use that calculator on all 44 math questions. Good riddance to the "No Calculator" math section! Content coverage doesn't seem to be all that different, with Algebra and Advanced Math continuing to lead the way, Problem Solving (percentages, probability, data charts) slightly less important, and Geometry/Trigonometry becoming more important but still a fairly minor part of the overall equation (particularly compared to the ACT).
So, you are a Class of '25 student or parent, have just read this, and are now thinking, "What does this mean for me?" The answer might range from "nothing at all" to "possibly something" to "definitely something."
Nothing at All. If you decide to take the ACT, then these changes do not affect you. Or, if you decide to take the SAT and are done with your official testing by December of your junior year, you'll never need to encounter the digital SAT.
Possibly Something. If you decide to take the SAT and begin your official testing in the fall, then it's entirely possible that you may need to take the March 2024 exam. If this is the case, you will make the transition from the paper and pencil version after the December 2023 exam. As you've read above, this will involve a fairly significant transition--in terms of format, medium, and content. It's certainly doable, but we don't think many students will be eager to be the "test dummies" in this scenario.
Definitely Something. If your plan is to target the December SAT as your first official exam, then it's highly likely that you will set yourself up to take two different versions of the SAT. While in past years Peak Performance encouraged students to start preparing over the summer prior to their junior year in order to target the December and March exams, that plan no longer seems so wise for SAT students. It might be better to either target earlier official exams or embrace the new version and aim for one or more of the March-May-June-August (2024) options.
Regardless of anything above, your first steps remain the same: take a full-length ACT diagnostic and a full-length SAT diagnostic. A student taking an SAT diagnostic prior to September 1 may still want to use the current SAT, while a student taking an SAT diagnostic after September 1 might be better off going right to the digital version and forgoing the current version of the exam. Let the data, your own reflections on the diagnostic experience, and the information above inform your decision. We look forward to mentoring you through this process!