SAT Administration and Technology

The SAT: A Paper-Based Test

Many standardized tests have adopted a computerized format for administration, but the 2022 SAT is still a paper-based test. While the SAT will transition to a digital format completed on computer in 2023 for international students and 2024 for students in the United States, until those dates the test will remain paper-based. 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 testing room, but they may use any available space in the test booklet for scratch work.

Reasons Why the SAT is Going Digital

The College Board cited numerous reasons for its transition away from paper-based tests in favor of digital tests completed on computers, including increased test security and a faster turnaround time between completing the exam and receiving test scores. Under the current paper-and-pencil method, one compromised test form can mean voiding scores for an entire group of students. By using a digital testing format, every student will complete a unique version of the test, making it nearly impossible to share answers. Over the past few years, there have been instances of paper record forms being lost or mishandled, and completing the test on a computer removes any need to transport test booklets and answer sheets, further improving the security of the test. Receiving SAT scores can currently take weeks after testing has been completed, but with the switch to digital format, answers will be scored, and scores provided to students in a matter of days, eliminating the lengthy waiting period and allowing students to make faster decisions informed by their performance on the test. It is also important to note that the digital SAT has been designed so that if a student loses power or connection to the internet during testing, neither their work nor time will not be lost in the process of reconnecting.

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, as 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 a recognizable photograph. In order to be admitted to the testing center, students must present a government- or school-issued 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 as long as there is no audible alarm. Students who violate any of these policies will be dismissed from the testing center, and their scores will be cancelled. Beginning in 2023 for international students and 2024 for students in the United States, using a calculator will be permitted on the entire mathematics section. While students will still be able to bring and use their own approved calculators, the digital version of the test will also include an embedded graphing calculator.

SAT Technology for Students with Disabilities

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 students with disabilities. The College Board currently lists 11 types of disabilities for which accomodations may be requested, including:

  • ADHD

  • Austism Spectrum Disorders

  • Communications Disorders

  • Head Injuries

  • Hearing Impairment

  • Learning Disorders

  • Other Disabilities

  • Physical or Medical Disability

  • Psychiatric Disorders

  • Tic Disorders or Tourette's

  • Visual Impairments

Test-takers who meet the appropriate criteria may be provided with assistive technology. A school computer must be used for these purposes, and students may not bring their own devices. 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, and as the test moves to a digital format, changes may be made in the types of accomodations and assistive technology provided and/or approved for use during testing.

SAT Preparation Technology

As administration of the SAT slowly moves to embrace available technology, it is important to note that technology has been helping students prepare for the test for years and will continue to play an important role in SAT preparation. 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 current 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. We encourage students and their families to do their own research, including speaking with those who have used specific test prep products or worked with test prep companies. Guidance counselors and other school administration personnel can also offer feedback on the best ways to study for the most current version of the exam, ensuring precious time is not wasted and students are able to prepare for the SAT with confidence.

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