Last week we got a sneak peek at the College Board’s new digital testing app, which includes the first official practice test for the new adaptive SAT. A reminder that this new SAT will only affect U.S. students in the class of 2025 (our current sophomores) and beyond. International students in the class of 2024 will take this new test in spring of 2023, but U.S. students in the class of 2024 (our current juniors) are unaffected by this change.
At this point, it’s still a bit too early to know everything there is to know about the new SAT. We’re circling October 18th on our calendars, which is when the College Board has stated they’ll have an updated version of their testing app. In time, new SAT practice tests will be available on Khan Academy, as well. Eventually, we anticipate that the College Board will release up to four full-length practice tests.
Even so, we’ve learned a lot from our most recent look at the testing app in its current form, and the practice test itself. Here are our main takeaways!
First Impressions of the Digital SAT
We were pleased to see a lot of familiar material on the new test. As experts on the traditional SAT, we’re glad that we can continue to use all of our test-taking knowledge and intel. We’re also excited about developing new strategies to take full advantage of the testing app’s tools.
The College Board’s digital testing app, Bluebook, is fairly intuitive and works well. Note that students must have a College Board account to log in. Here’s a glance at the app, which students will use for taking practice tests and on the official test day:
While taking the digital SAT, there are a variety of useful tools available. The annotation tool, for example, allows for students to underline and highlight text, while also adding notes:
In the math section, students can still view the same familiar reference sheet of math formulas, this time as a pop-up, eliminating the awkwardness of leafing back through a test booklet to access the same information.
Students will also have access to a digital Desmos-powered graphing calculator for the test, or students can use their own. Here’s a quick look at the calculator provided:
Once a student finishes a practice test, they will be redirected to the College Board site, where score results should populate within a couple of minutes. There is a bit of a delay with viewing test results (you must leave the app and view results on the College Board’s MySAT site, and test data is not exportable). After clicking the “Review Test” button on MySAT, students can also review individual questions:
How the SAT’s Adaptive Structure Works
In addition to building familiarity with the digital app, students should understand the new SAT’s adaptive structure. Both the Math section and the Reading and Writing section are split into two modules. Performance on the first module determines how difficult that second module will be.
For example, every student will receive the same first Math module. If a student does a great job on the first module, they will then take the more challenging second module. On the test we saw, New SAT Practice Test #1, a student must answer 14 of the 22 Math questions of the first module correctly to be placed into the more challenging second math module. Similarly, a student must correctly answer 18 of the 27 questions in the first verbal module to be placed into the more challenging second Reading and Writing module. Each of these variations of modules has its own scoring scale.
Similarities and Differences in SAT Content
Though the structure of the SAT is changing, the content is quite familiar. The new SAT will retain the same set of concepts that are covered by the current SAT.
Math questions are particularly similar to those seen on the current version of the test, with the most notable change being the reduction in wordiness. Students are also now permitted to use a graphing calculator throughout the entirety of the math portion of the test.
Reading and Writing passages are much shorter (only up to 150 words, whereas the current SAT passages are up to about 750 words). Each passage is accompanied by only a single question. If you remember the pre-2016 SAT, these short passages may feel a bit familiar because they resemble the short passages that appeared in that older version of the test. This shift to shorter reading is well suited to the digital format of the exam, as you don’t need to scroll to see the whole passage. It is the most significant content change to the test. Another change to Reading and Writing content is the addition of some new passage types, including poetry, plays, and bulleted lists.
The Future of Admissions Testing
The shift to adaptive testing is a result of test developers responding to the needs of two audiences: colleges and students. College admission professionals want an exam that offers reliable scores. Students want an exam that isn’t too stressful. An adaptive test structure offers a great solution by providing accurate scores in nearly half the time (3 hours vs 2 hours and 14 minutes). Many graduate program admissions tests, such as the GRE and GMAT, already use an adaptive structure. It is in the best interest of all college-bound students to become familiar with adaptive testing. For more information on how adaptive testing works, see the description below.
An Overview of Adaptive Testing
The traditional SAT that we’re familiar with uses a “linear” model—each student receives the same set of questions. To evaluate a wide range of student skill levels, a linear test needs to have a lot of questions, which makes it lengthy and inefficient. You can think of the traditional SAT as a giant department store—it can satisfy everyone’s needs, but it may take a long time to find what you’re seeking. By contrast, the new adaptive SAT is like a boutique shop, specialized to provide just what you need. An adaptive test model will adjust the difficulty of questions based on the performance of the test-taker. Rather than wasting time on questions that are much too easy or too challenging, students taking an adaptive test will spend more time on questions that suit their skill levels. This tighter targeting allows the adaptive SAT to provide accurate scores with fewer questions. In the shift to an adaptive structure, the SAT’s content won’t change much—it’s still focused on the same set of math and verbal skills that colleges care about most—but the new model makes the test more efficient.
Advice for Students in the Class of 2025 and Beyond
This new practice test and testing app is a great start, and a very good sign as the College Board continues to hit its stated release dates. We’ve learned a lot already, but there’s still much we don’t know. For instance, will every practice test contain the same adaptive structure? How does question-by-question performance impact scaled scores? We are still in the process of fully analyzing this first test, and we’ll continue to study the new official SATs as we prepare updated prep materials. Of course, we’re eagerly awaiting the release of the College Board’s updated app – which may bring with it more practice tests – later this month.
For international students and U.S. students in the class of 2025, the best advice – really the only sound advice – is to continue to wait patiently. There is no need to rush to take this first test yet. We also cannot recommend the use of any unofficial practice tests, which are based on too much conjecture to be accurate or useful. We are currently developing new study material to reflect these changes, and we’ll be ready in plenty of time to have students fully prepared for the first administration of the new SAT. Stay tuned for these and more updates, including Summit’s informed recommendations around choosing between the ACT or the new SAT.
In the meantime, we invite you to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-MY-TUTOR.
Joshua White – Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Training
In his role as Director of Curriculum, Joshua oversees the development, implementation, and oversight of Summit’s curriculum, instruction, and training. Prior to his role, Joshua spent 3 years as a Summit tutor and classroom teacher, preparing students for the SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and essay-writing. With over 10 years of tutoring experience, Joshua has taught students from kindergarteners to senior citizens in everything from cooking to computers.