Beginning in 2024, US students can say goodbye to pencils and scantrons as CollegeBoard ushers in a new digital testing format with significant content and time changes. The class of 2025 and beyond will be affected by these changes.
While we’re not sure what it all entails, here’s what we know so far:
The computerized test will be section adaptive, meaning students will start with easier questions in the first section. Depending on how many questions they answer correctly in that section, the next section will contain easier or more difficult questions. If the student scores well, he or she will move on to more challenging questions, which correspond to higher score ranges. If he does not score well at first, he will be directed to easier questions corresponding to the lower score ranges. Therefore, if a student does not score well on the first section, there will be no way to reach the highest scores.
From a prep standpoint, students should focus on double checking work and avoiding simple mistakes. Unlike tests in school where students often receive partial credit for partially correct answers, an SAT question can only be right or wrong. Simple errors could cost a student many points, especially if made on the first section.
We do not yet know if the math content will change, but based on previous SAT overhauls, I predict it will. The last major content change in 2015 shifted the emphasis from geometry to Algebra. Because we don’t know the exact content yet, I recommend mastering Algebra I and II, especially concepts like linear equations, systems of equations, quadratics, and functions. These are tested frequently and will likely remain a focus on the new test. Khan Academy or an Algebra workbook would be a good place to start for freshman.
Since a Desmos calculator will be allowed on all math questions (https://digitaltesting.collegeboard.org/pdf/about-desmos-calculator.pdf ), students should feel comfortable using this calculator as they move through their math courses. In particular, students should understand how to graph equations, find intercepts, find intersection of two equations, identify the max/min of a function, and know how to use roots and exponents.
Compared to the current SAT, the reading comprehension section will likely see the most dramatic change. Instead of reading long passages with 10-11 questions per passage, the digital SAT will include short paragraph-length passages with one question per passage. Students might remember and process more, but comprehend less with limited information.
Students should practice reading many different types of texts, such as historical, literature, scientific, etc. and practice understanding the tone and purpose of a piece of writing. For students that have trouble with this type of reading comprehension, I recommend Reading Detective Rx (https://amzn.to/34AiEKi) as a starting workbook. Although vocabulary is not directly tested, many students have difficulty with comprehension because they do not understand the vocabulary, especially in historical passages. It’s never too early to practice those vocab words since vocabulary is best improved over time. One of my favorite workbooks for vocabulary is Barron’s 1100 Words You Need to Know: https://amzn.to/3J1ps2A .
Grammar and punctuation rules are tested frequently on the SAT, and I find that many students don’t understand the rules of grammar. They answer questions based on what “sounds right”. The problem with this approach is that we don’t always use proper grammar in everyday speech, so what sounds right may not actually be right. My favorite book for grammar is Erica Meltzer’s The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar: https://amzn.to/3vVEiUs .
The best news with this next SAT overhaul is the length of time required to take the test. Currently, it takes three hours to complete the test. In 2024, it will only take two hours!
I often advise students to start official test prep the end of sophomore year or beginning of junior year. Now more than ever I strongly discourage official SAT prep in ninth grade since we don’t know all the changes this new test will bring. However, I do recommend students start mastering the skills we know will be tested.