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The CavChron

The student news site of Hollis Brookline High School

The CavChron

The student news site of Hollis Brookline High School

The CavChron

From Paper to PC: What the Digital SAT Entails

A student fills out a bubble test sheet for the SAT, which was originally produced on paper. Now, with the realm of education moving online, the SAT will be fully digital by 2024. (lecroitg, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Starting in March of 2024, the College Board will completely switch from paper-based testing to digital platforms, 97 years after its debut. While international students received the digital version in 2023, the Class of ’25 will be the first class in the United States without the paper option. 

The SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, was created by Carl Brigham in 1926. Originally used to measure human intelligence through reading and writing capabilities, it gradually became less subjective in its questions and worked towards including questions that people from different backgrounds could understand. After World War II ended, the U.S. G.I. Bill of Rights, passed in 1944 to provide services to returning veterans, created a huge boom in demand for higher education. As colleges and universities were overwhelmed with applications, these institutes began to accept the SAT because it promised to accurately predict a student’s success in higher education.

The College Board announced the digital SAT in early 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed learning tools and resources online. “Students are now doing more of their learning and testing digitally, and the SAT shouldn’t be the exception. “We’re listening to input and adapting to ensure we continue to meet the needs of students and educators,” writes the College Board, which also said the digitized version will work to be “shorter, more secure, more relevant, and simpler to deliver than ever before.”

The digital exam fixes major issues that plagued the paper exam. For example, if one paper test was compromised, the entire test group’s scores may be canceled. “Going digital allows us to give every student a unique test form, so it will be practically impossible to share answers,” explains the College Board.

Also, digital exams are easier to plan for and administer since they don’t require much input from proctors beyond helping students open the test app. Administrators will find it easier to keep a record of test booklets and answers. “Going digital allows us to offer much more flexibility in terms of when, where, and how often the SAT is given, particularly for states, districts, and schools offering the SAT to all their students as part of SAT School Day,” writes the College Board.

Paper versions also get misplaced easily since they’re harder to track physically than digitally. “My brother had a friend who never got his SAT score back because he took it on paper and they were unable to find his test,” said Lolly Adair ’25.

The new software used to administer the test is the Bluebook app, which can be installed on PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks. At HB, Bluebook is pre-installed as an application on all school-provided Chromebooks. 

However, it doesn’t come without its issues. The 2022 SAT at HB was altered because of a technological problem regarding a test version of the digital SAT. Sarah Zhang, HB Class of ’23, took the test but had issues saving her work. “I spent 15 minutes waiting for it to save, but it didn’t. My whole column had this problem, so we were given new Chromebooks,” said Zhang. This alteration reduced the amount of time students had to answer the questions because the timer didn’t stop as students received Chromebooks. “The paper ones were much better because they didn’t have that glitch,” Zhang said.

The College Board says it will “provide technology monitors with training and a troubleshooting guide when we get closer to the 2024 launch of the digital SAT in the U.S.” Specifically at HB, tech centers will be provided across floors and stationed near testing classrooms.

Chromebooks must also be charged for the exam, resulting in a change of testing locations. “We used to test in the gym, and now we test in individual classrooms because we could supply each classroom with charging towers,” explained Assistant Principal Amanda Zeller. 

With all these concerns, one could believe that the digital SAT is less effective than its paper predecessor. In 2022, Jessica P. Marini, Paul A. Westrick, Linda Young and Emily J. Shaw conducted a study on behalf of the College Board to dispel any confusion.

The group found that the current SAT had a sample mean of 1242, whereas the digital SAT had a mean of 1241, a decrease of one point. This one-point difference is negligible: “students are scoring as similarly on the digital SAT and current SAT as they are when they sit for two different administrations of the current SAT,” concluded the College Board.

Overall, determining which version of the SAT is better for students is tricky; it boils down to which learning environment each individual student prefers. “The idea of which is better for a student becomes a balancing act, many students are more comfortable in a digital environment these days,” said Zeller.

PSAT Day at HB was scheduled for October 11. Due to nationwide College Board technical issues, the test will be rescheduled for the near future.

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About the Contributor
Xavier Lindsey
Xavier Lindsey, Assistant/Managing Editor
Xavier Lindsey ‘25 is a first-year writer for the CavChron. He participates in numerous STEM activities, including the HBHS Math and Science Olympiad teams. He is also the co-CEO of the local robotics team, FRC 1073, and a class representative for the Student Council. He participates in a lot of volunteering too, helping out wherever needed.  Outside of HB, he enjoys cooking delicious meals, gardening flowers, and spending time in nature. He is interested in interior design and architecture as a field and wants to pursue it as a career after graduation. Not a New Hampshire native, Xavier wishes to bring fresh perspectives and exciting topics to the CavChron.  

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