What You Need to Know Now about the eSAT
Purveyor of the SAT, The College Board, recently announced that it’s going all-digital in 2024, so the exam will be taken exclusively on a computer or tablet at testing centers.
A number of other changes will also be made to the exam, including:
- The test will be shortened from three to two hours.
- Reading passages will be shorter.
- A calculator will now be allowed on the entire math section.
- Each student will see a unique version of the test.
These changes have happened as the number of students taking the SAT has plunged from a high of 2.2 million for the class of 2020, to a low of 1.5 million in 2021, with somewhat of a rebound for the class of 2022 at 1.7 million.
Many selective colleges and universities have continued admissions test-optional policies started during the pandemic, and the entire public college and university system of California is on its way to phasing out admissions tests.
It would be a mistake to view these changes as attempts to improve the SAT’s accuracy as a predictor of college success — because the SAT has never been such a thing. Testing and tutoring expert Akil Bello points out that every iteration of the SAT is touted as an improvement without any research or justification to back the claims.
The justifications given for each new test ask colleges and the public to accept that as long as the product is called the SAT and has a passing resemblance to the last version, it’s a good indicator of students’ “college readiness.” The test publisher has asked the public to accept the new test, despite radical revisions, as both better than and comparable to the old test.
Bello observes that some of the recent changes undo previous shifts that were claimed to be for student benefit. Longer reading passages were intended to help students engage with longer, more sophisticated texts.
The College Board dismissed testing fatigue as a factor in performance when it expanded the test to four hours in the early 2000s, but now says it is shortening the test in part to combat testing fatigue. Calculators were banned for part of the test because it was important for students “to be fluent in rational number arithmetic,” but soon calculators will be permitted throughout.
These factors seem important only as long as they can be used to justify a change to the test. Yethe nature of the changes suggests that there is less science and rationality behind the SAT than many believe.
A three-hour test normed to a 1600 as a perfect score becoming a (supposedly) comparable two-hour test will be a feat in and of itself.
While The College Board is a nominal non-profit, it is in reality a business with more than one-billion dollars in revenue. There is a lot of money at stake as fewer schools require the SAT and market share is lost to competitors like the ACT. We shouldn’t be so naive as to imagine that any of these changes has anything to do with matters of education.
Educational Endeavors will continue to prepare students for the challenge of taking standardized admissions tests, but we’re also committed to advocating for policies and approaches that benefit all students and telling the truth as best we can about the system we’re working and living within.