Throw out your pencils: SAT tests go digital


Sydney Lammey

“The trusted name in test prep” Barron’s SAT reading and practice test workbooks

Sydney Lammey, Staff Writer

On January 18, College Board announced the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT, will be completely online by 2024. Students will still be taking the exams in testing centers, but the test will be shortened from three hours to two hours. 

With the rise of COVID-19, some colleges have chosen to go test-optional, meaning they are not requiring applicants to submit SAT scores. This does not mean that taking the test will not increase your chances of getting accepted, but this does take a weight off of some students’ shoulders. With the increase of colleges not requiring scores, this begs the question: do SAT tests even matter?

Kelly Nolin, Senior Associate Director of Colorado State University says, “Students absolutely do not need to submit test scores. We say they are optional and we mean it. We do not require them for admissions or scholarship decisions. If a student submits scores, we might use them if they help the student by indicating college readiness. If the scores aren’t good, though, then we don’t take them into consideration.”

The CSU Admissions website says, “CSU does not require ACT or SAT test scores. All applicants have the same access to admission and scholarship review whether or not they submit scores.”

Even though test scores are not required, CSU is required by the state of Colorado to accept test scores if students send them. 

Due to the pandemic, many students were not able to take the SAT or ACT during the 2020-21 school year. COVID-19 was not the only reason CSU is not requiring test scores.

“We also had some concerns about the equity of the exam itself, specifically as it relates to first-generation college students, those from low-income backgrounds, and some students from underrepresented populations. We made a decision to continue to be test-optional for the foreseeable future,” Nolin says.

The main criticism of standardized testing is that one test is not an accurate measure of a student’s college readiness. 

As for what CSU looks for in their applicants, Nolin explains that their requirements go beyond test scores, “Our goal is to find academically prepared students who will be a good fit for CSU.  Ultimately, we believe other aspects of the application are a more complete representation of who a student is than a two or three-hour exam.”

As colleges start to care less and less each day about the SAT, people start to question whether standardized tests, in general, are a beneficial part of the college application process. Nearly 80% of bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities are not requiring ACT or SAT scores. 

Mark Barry, a dean at Fossil Ridge High school, explains that your decision to take the test is circumstantial, “A lot of the schools are optional. And what I would tell people is like when they say, ‘Should I take it?’ I would say: Google the schools that you’re interested in and see what they’re looking for right now and I would plan on it until we hear for sure that these colleges don’t want to see it.”

Barry also adds, “I think it’s worth taking, and then seeing how you do, like I said. And if it’s one data point to submit, I don’t think there’s harm in submitting it. If you’ve got a score, and you’ve done your research, maybe talking to your school counselor, like, ‘Hey, these are the places I want to apply. Here’s my score. Is it worth submitting it?’”

A common reason students do not want to take the test is because of the length. The new tests will be two hours instead of the current three-hour test, taking away some of the stress of test-taking. 

“I think it’s good that they’re going online for several reasons. Number one, they say that it’s going to reduce the amount of time the test takes. So right now, without any of the pre-bubbling and all these other administrative things that we do at the beginning, it’s like a three-hour test. And that’s without the essay because they provide an optional essay, they’re saying it’s going to be more like a two-hour test,” Barry says. 

Since the test will be hosted on online software, the system will give you harder questions based on the questions previously answered.

“When it’s on the computer, it levels to the person taking the test. So it gets rid of all these questions that are obviously way too easy if people are just answering it, correct, correct, correct. It’ll be like, ‘Hey, we’re good in that area.’ And it’ll level to the next difficulty level of questions. And then if it’s too hard, too hard, too hard to be like, ‘Alright, they don’t have this skill set yet.’ So it’ll focus in on a type of question. And so that’s why I think it becomes shorter. And I think it’s a more valid measure for students,” says Barry.

These changes have had mostly positive feedback, although it is sparking discussion regarding the importance of standardized tests in general. The College Board has yet to announce exactly how the test will run. The SATs are a crucial part of the stressful college admissions process, and the College Board continues to make money off of it.