No more No. 2 pencils. No more scantrons. No more frantic preparation for the only situation in your life you’ll ever have to do math without access to a smartphone calculator.
Starting in 2024, the dreaded SAT will go fully digital, shorten from three hours to two, and start allowing a calculator on the entire math section. The exam will still be taken in schools or testing centers, but rather than filling out endless ranks of mind-strangling multiple choice questions on tiny sheets of paper, students will fill out endless ranks of mind-strangling multiple choice questions on a laptop.
Okay, so maybe this change doesn’t quite make the SAT perfect after all, but the College Board will also be modifying the reading section in a clear move to appease students. Instead of the extended passages previous test takers have been used to, the reading test will focus on a larger number of shorter excerpts. The texts will also apparently “reflect a wider range of topics,” although what specifically that means hasn’t been explained.
The update comes after a tough couple of years for the SAT, and standardized testing as a whole. Public opinion had already started to turn against the test before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. With some colleges and universities making SAT scores optional in their admissions, that trend has only accelerated since. More than 1,800 colleges and universities did not require SAT scores this admissions cycle, and students responded accordingly, with 0.7 million fewer taking the test in 2021 than in 2020.
If it’s not immediately clear how existentially terrifying that might be to a mega-corporation like College Board, look no farther than the comment Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of college readiness assessments at College Board, offered the New York Times. When asked for a statement, Ms. Rodriguez apparently said, “In a largely test-optional world, the SAT is a lower-stakes test in college admissions. Submitting a score is optional for every type of college, and we want the SAT to be the best possible option for students.”
Translation: “We’re not needed anymore, our monopoly is falling apart, and our only hope to get our students back and avoid financial ruin is to bribe them by making things easier.” To be fair, they’re not wrong.
However juniors of the future take the SAT, it may already be on its way to becoming irrelevant. As big a change as this is, it seems doubtful that additional calculator access and shorter texts will transform the SAT into a beloved and culturally relevant institution. Yet it still seems safe to say that the test is here to stay, at least for now. So come 2024, study hard, get a good night’s sleep, and remember to sharpen your No. 2 keyboards.