SAT Administration and Technology

The SAT: A Paper-Based Test

Many standardized tests have adopted computerized format for administration, but the 2016 SAT is still a paper-based test. Test booklets that include the questions and answer sheets are distributed to test-takers in hard copy, and answers must be filled in with a no. 2 pencil. Students may not bring scratch paper into the test room, but they may use any available space in the test booklet for scratch work.

Reasons for the SAT as a Paper-Based Test

Security is one of the primary factors in the College Board's continued offering of the SAT exclusively in hard copy. Electronic tests must obviously exist electronically, which makes them vulnerable to hacking or other forms of digital theft. Student preference is another important consideration. Surprisingly, one recent survey found that many of today's high school students actually favor taking the SAT with paper and pencil. Of approximately 400 students surveyed, only about 1 in 5 wished they could take the SAT electronically, and only about 39% called for any changes in the SAT's administration. Concerns about technical problems with the testing software and typing proficiency tended to be the main reasons for test-takers' low-tech preferences. Accommodating these student wishes is thought to help the SAT compete with the ACT, a rival undergraduate admissions test that is administered digitally.

Registering for the SAT

Most students register for the SAT via the College Board website. Test-takers must create an account and register for themselves (this task cannot be completed by teachers or parents). Registration should include the student's full legal name, the name and code of their high school, grade level, gender, date of birth, and recognizable photograph. In order to be admitted to the testing center, students must present a government or school identification and admission ticket (printed out with registration) that exactly matches the information provided at registration. Students may also register for the SAT by mail, and some types of students are required to do so (including children under 13, those unable to upload photos, or registrants from countries with internet access restrictions).

Use of Technology While Taking the SAT

Use of technology on test day is strictly limited. The only electronic device that is allowed while taking the SAT is a calculator. These must be stand-alone devices (cell phone calculators and laptop calculators are prohibited). Students may wear a wristwatch during the test. Students who violate any of these policies will be dismissed from the testing center, and their scores will be cancelled.

SAT Technology for Disabled Students

Students with disabilities that impact their ability to take the SAT may request certain accommodations that make use of available technology. These requests must be made well in advance of the test date, and must satisfy the College Board's policies for disabled students. Test-takers who meet the appropriate criteria may be provided with a computer word-processing function for writing essays or giving short-answer responses to certain types of questions. A school computer must be used for these purposes, with word-processing features such as spell-check, grammar-check, and cut-and-paste disabled. Students may not bring their own devices, and this type of approved accommodation cannot be used on multiple-choice sections of the SAT. Requests for other types of accommodations, such as screen readers, special programs, tools, or apps, will be considered by the College Board on a case-by-case basis.

SAT Preparation Technology

Although technology is not widely used in the administration of the SAT, technology can help students prepare for the test. A number of private test prep companies offer online SAT instruction, either in virtual classroom format or in private, one-on-one tutoring sessions. Pre-recorded video lessons are available over the internet, in some cases free of charge. SAT prep software can also be acquired from a variety of organizations, and it is usually either inexpensive or free. These types of programs allow students to practice SAT exercises, receive feedback, and assess the skills and testing areas most in need of improvement. Students using these sorts of technological aids must ensure that the materials they acquire are relevant to the 2016 version of the SAT. The dramatic changes to the test have rendered a large number of electronic teaching tools obsolete, and it is not always easy to tell the difference between old and new when viewing products sold by an on-site or online vendor.