Here to stay, or here too soon?

April 28, 2023
Category: Perspectives

Gearing up for the SAT? Check out our upcoming SAT classes and prepare for the last few paper-based SATs ever to be offered!


The SAT will soon be offered exclusively in a computer-based format. While this change has already been implemented internationally, US testers will be spared the change until 2024. Once the test goes digital, there’s no going back. Here’s our perspective.

If you can, test on paper in 2023.

Current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders are used to testing on paper. They’re used to flipping around a test, dog-earing pages to come back to, doing their work on paper, and bubbling in their answers on a bubble sheet. Students testing in the next couple of years are also more familiar with navigating the test-day procedures of paper testing. Testing is already stressful enough on students (and parents) – why add more with talk of things like Digital SAT Device Requirements and SAT Device Lending Requirements?

For students preparing on a paper, we’d suggest taking a paper test. The last paper tests ever to be offered will be the 2023 August, October, November, or December tests. Choosing to take one of these paper tests means:

  • utilizing tried-and-true strategies that work, like annotating passages and questions. (Yes, you can mark up the digital test as well, but doing so with a mouse and keyboard is very different from doing so with a pencil.)
  • avoiding technical concerns that might arise on test day, helping to alleviate some anxiety about what happens if (and when) a technical issue occurs.
  • better comprehension of content and immunity from the fatigue that comes from staring at a screen for an extended period of time.

If you’re testing on the computer, practice on the computer.

Unfortunately, 9th and 10th graders might not have the choice to test on paper by the time they’re ready for the SAT. In this case, consider:

  • practicing on the computer using the SAT’s Bluebook app. (Over the next few years, we’ll see more and more platforms trying to take advantage of the newness of the digital SAT; stick to digital practice from trusted sources, like the College Board.)
  • that the digital SAT is not just a different testing experience, it’s a different test. (This means using the right materials; the digital test is shorter than the paper test, and passage-based texts are significantly shorter than the paper test.)
  • becoming familiar with the on-screen calculator

If a computer-based test isn’t for your student, consider the ACT instead.

Only time can tell.

The CollegeBoard has made radical changes to the SAT over the past several years. Going digital is only the latest in a long line of changes (like changing the scoring system from 1600 to 2400 and then back to 1600; eliminating the essay, etc.). The CollegeBoard says the test will only be offered digitally going forward, but they might soften that stance in the future, as they have in the past. One thing we do know: the SAT continues to evolve with the educational landscape, and further changes are almost certainly coming.

As with all lofty ideas, implementation and execution are key, and the devil is in the detail. Unfortunately, only time will tell if the digital SAT has lasting power. 

Get in touch.

If you’re not sure how to proceed, get in touch with us. The last time the SAT changed, we were there to help families understand the impact for their students. We’re still here.