PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 156 | What To Know About The New Digital SAT

A new digital SAT is right around the corner. Who does this affect? When does it roll out? How does it differ from paper-based SAT?

Show Transcript:

[00:00:00] Hello friends and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast.. In today's episode, I want to talk about the rollout of the new digital SAT and how it might affect you and your children. Some of you have probably heard about this new development, which is a pretty big one. But in case you missed it, here's a quick summary. Last year in the middle of the COVID mess, the College Board announced that they would be doing away with all paper based SAT tests starting in the spring of 2024. That's a year and a half from now. Now, that's for all domestic students, that's for all students in the United States. For international students who live abroad, and/or who intend to take the SAT while living abroad, they will switch over to a 100% digital format in about six months, or March of 2023. So if you live overseas and you're listening to this, make sure you understand that what I'm about to talk about will be happening a year sooner for you. Replacing the traditional paper based SAT test will be a digital only SAT test that students will take on a laptop at a school or at a testing center, not at home. And as you can imagine, there are a lot of questions and concerns that pop up with this massive format change. I'm going to attempt to answer most of the important ones in this episode. And of course, if you want more detailed advice tailored to your particular child's situation, feel free to set up a consultation with me and we'll dig into the weeds together on the best plan forward.

[00:01:41] So first off, who will this format change affect? Will it affect current seniors? That's the class of 2023. No. Will it affect current juniors? Class of 2024? No. Will it affect current sophomores? Class of 2025? Yes, big time. This will be the transition class, if you will. Will this affect current freshman class of 2026? Yes, it will. And will it affect middle schoolers and beyond? Yes, it's going to affect everybody younger than sophomores, as we'll see in a few minutes. So if you have a child who is a sophomore or younger this year or a child who might read class into one of these year groups, it's important for you to pay particularly close attention. If you're a current junior or a senior, you're basically off the hook. By the time this digital test is officially rolled out a year and a half from now, you'll be done with testing and this will have no impact on you. So for all the sophomores and younger out there, it's time to pay attention. Let's start out with sophomores specifically because they are the real guinea pigs here and they have some serious strategizing to do. The sophomore class is when that transition kicks in, so they'll need to be very in tune with what's going on.

[00:03:12] Let's start out by orienting ourselves to where we are on the calendar when it comes to test-taking. Typically, a current sophomore would not have to worry about taking the PSAT (that's the practice SAT) until the fall of next year, which would be their junior year, typically in October. That's 11 months away. Then a typical sophomore would find out how they did on that PSAT in November of their junior year, and they'd come up with a study plan based on that score with the hopes of preparing for a real SAT in the spring of their junior year. That would give them about six months to study for the real thing. This is how it usually goes down. PSAT in October of junior year and then SAT in the spring in April, May or June of their junior year. Now importantly, this is not the advice I give to most of my PrepWellers, especially those who are strong in math, engaged in this process and or athletes. And the big caveat here is that most of my PrepWellers are more motivated than your average student, so keep that in mind. For these types of students, my sophomore PrepWellers, my advice to them is to plan to dedicate a big chunk of this upcoming summer to preparing for the SAT with the goal of taking their first, and hopefully their last, official SAT in late August, October or November, right in the beginning of their junior year. And there are a ton of reasons why I like this plan. I won't go into all the details right now. The biggest one is to get that SAT or ACT, for that matter, out of the way early so they can spend their junior year focused on classes, activities, sports, extracurriculars and leadership. To add SAT study to that schedule is very, very difficult and it usually doesn't end well. And so with this in mind, if you think your sophomore fits into this category and they're good at math, meaning they're probably ahead by about a year compared to the mainstream peers, and they will actually study over the summer and they will be prepared for an early SAT, then here's exactly what I would do.

[00:05:53] Number one, I would take a diagnostic SAT test this spring and see how they do. If you need help setting this up, I can connect you with one of my partner companies that will arrange for this type of practice test to be taken at home at their convenience, depending on how they do on that practice test that they take at home. I would then come up with a study plan for the summer. Now, first, you want to figure out what their target score is and what type of studying they'll need to do to close the gap between that practice score and their target score. For example, if they take a diagnostic, SAT from home in May and they score a 1200, but their target score is 1400 because they want to go to X, Y, Z college. Then I would come up with a summer study plan that would get them a 200-point improvement by the end of the summer. That may mean self-study or Khan Academy or an SAT class or a one on one tutor or some combination of those things. Now you have a plan. Whether your child executes that plan over the summer is a whole different story and not something that I'm going to be able to address in this episode. But at least you have a plan and you can begin to execute that plan. Let's assume that this fictitious student does all the right things and is ready to take a real SAT by October of their junior year. Again, this will be right after a summer of studying, right after they take the PSAT in October, which will be digital, by the way. So they should be primed and ready to take the SATs. And if they do well on this test, knock on wood, they'll never look back. They'll be done with testing. And they can then shift their focus to the many other challenges of junior year. This is my preferred study strategy and it has worked for my three sons, as well as dozens and dozens of my private PrepWell students.

[00:08:01] Now, the other reason this might be a good idea, given this looming transition to a digital SAT, is that these early tests, again at the beginning of their junior year, will be the last opportunities that your child will have to take a traditional paper-based SAT. They'll never get the chance again. This could be a big deal. My prediction is that seats to these final paper based SAT test will be sold out within minutes. It will be very difficult to get a seat for one of these final tests. You better register early and I would register for multiple dates. Getting the opportunity to take one of the final paper SAT tests may turn out to be a big strategic win for you. Why? Well, because some students like the paper based test better. They're more comfortable with it. They don't want to deal with the newfangled digital test. The paper based test is tried and true. There's no drama. Testing centers and schools have been administering this test for decades. So if they're ready for it, I would love to see them lock in an SAT score from the old reliable paper-based SAT. One of these early tests is a great one to have in your back pocket. Now keep in mind the timing here. It will be the beginning of their junior year and they will have just taken a digital PSAT. So they've gotten some experience with the digital format, but why not get one more shot at the paper based format before it's gone paper-based, if they get the score that they want on that last paper-based SAT, they're done. They don't have to fool around with another SAT ever again, digital or otherwise. This would be the best case scenario. The paper-based SAT score will also be more credible than the new digital SAT score because colleges won't quite know what to make of the new digital SAT scores. Maybe for a few years, but definitely for the first few tests. So if your child doesn't want to be part of the guinea pig class, then maybe they should try to get the test out of the way before the digital test becomes mandatory.

[00:10:22] Now, if they don't score as high as they wanted on that last paper based test, that's okay. At least they tried. And they've done the bulk of their studying, presumably, and now their job will be to start changing their mindset toward the digital test. That's fine. This will take a little bit more of an adjustment, but it will be more about process and less about content. The only hitch is that I would not recommend that they take one of the first two or three digital assets. There will likely be a bunch of hiccups and issues for the first few tests. There always are when we're transitioning to something new. But if you decide to steer clear of the first few official digital tests, then your child will be forced to wait until the summer for the fourth, fifth or sixth administration of the new digital SAT. And that may be later than you want to wait. Most of my students want to know where they stand with respect to an SAT score well before the summer before their senior year. That's when you're supposed to be applying to college, not getting an SAT score and figuring out what colleges might be a good fit. That's supposed to be done already. So the timing of sitting out the first few digital SAT tests may not be ideal because you'll be shoved to the summer. Again. Would it be the end of the world to try your hand at one of the first few digital assets? No. But I would definitely be prepared for some challenges. All right. So let's review what steps a current sophomore should be thinking about right now.

[00:11:58] Step number one, I need to set up a diagnostic SAT & ACT test this spring to figure out which tests would be better suited for me, the SAT or the ACT, as well as to get a baseline score to see how much improvement I need to be a viable applicant at my target colleges. Do I need to improve 50 points or 250 points? Again, if you need help setting up one of these free practice tests, please email me. I'll connect you with one of my partners who will set up these diagnostic SATs and acts for free. Step number two. Once you take a practice, SAT and ACT, let's say in April and let's assume you decide to take the SAT, it seemed to suit you better, or you liked it better, and you get your score back and you determine how much more improvement you need (let's say you're looking for an 80 point improvement), then you begin to set up your study schedule for the summer. Are you doing self-study or one on one or classroom or Khan Academy? Step number three. By the way, the added bonus of choosing to study for the SATs over the act is that your child will automatically also be preparing for the PSAT that they will take in October of their junior year. That PSAT is the one that matters for National Merit Scholarship Awards. So it's nice to be primed for it, even if it will be a digital test. Step number four. Make sure to register as early as you can for the fall SAT. That is the fall of the junior year, the last paper based SATs. That might be the August test. Maybe it's a September or October. Basically, keep aware of when the last paper based tests are going to be and try to get it done before December. I think that would be a good goal. I would be ready to register for those tests as early as humanly possible because, as I said, those seats are going to fill up fast. Step number five. Assuming you locked in a fall paper based SAT exam, I would also do my best to register for a few spring and summer SAT exams. And yes, they will be in the digital format. That's okay. Maybe your child even prefers the digital SAT. You never know, even if they think they'll prefer the digital test, however (for reasons I'll talk about in a minute), I still encourage them to take a final paper based test, if possible, just in case. And lastly, step number six, once you've mapped out this test taking timeline and study schedule, the only thing left to do is to prepare for the test. And yes, preparation for the paper test will be different from the digital test. And we'll walk you through those differences next year when the time is right. It's a little bit too early to worry about that right now. Remember, you're still a year and a half away from taking a spring digital SAT so let's not worry about that right now.

[00:15:04] Now, I'd like to address just a few of the differences between the traditional paper test and the new digital asset test. I'm not going to go into excruciating details right now, but I will cover the highlights. I will get back to you on some of the more nuanced changes and how to best prepare for them in a few months when it's more relevant. There's no need to nerd out on these things right now. If you're an international student, however, and your next SAT will be digital and six months from now, you'll want to get up to speed a little bit quicker. So let's go over a couple of the key differences. The new digital SAT is only 2 hours versus 3 hours for the paper based test. Most students like this because it is difficult to stay laser focused for 3 hours. 2 hours seems to be more reasonable. What's another difference? There are only two sections on the digital SAT instead of four sections, which is not that big a deal, just makes it a little bit more streamlined. The scores on the Digital SAT will be released within a few days versus a few weeks. When it comes to the paper based test. So that's a nice little bonus. The digital asset test score gets back to you very quickly. On the digital SAT, students can use a calculator for every single math question. Versus the paper based SAT where one section was no calculator allowed. So that may be a help to some students who really prefer the calculator. And lastly, the digital SAT is what's called adaptive, which means if you start out strong by answering the beginning few questions correctly, you will then be bumped up to more difficult questions in the second section, which will then allow you to get to the highest SAT scores. Conversely, if you blow the first few questions, the test will adjust the level down in difficulty in section two, which will limit how high a score you can get. So obviously the moral of the story here is to focus extra hard in the beginning of the sections, so you get bumped up to the more difficult questions in part two. So you have a chance at maximizing your score.

[00:17:23] There are some similarities between these two tests. Both the digital and the paper based tests must be taken at a school or a test center. Even with the digital SAT, you're not taking them at home on your laptop. The scoring conventions will be the same with the top scores of of both being a 1600. And even though there are only two sections on the digital SAT versus four on the paper based SAT, the sections are going to be the same. There's going to be a reading and writing section and a math section. Both tests will allow for accommodations, for time and format, depending on what your particular needs might be. And it's about the same number of test dates between the digital and the paper based SAT. In fact, for international students, there are going to be the same number of digital versus what used to be paper based, which is going to be a bonus for international students. The other option, which I haven't really addressed directly today, is to t ake the ACT. I know we've been talking a lot about the SAT, but there is an alternative. If you don't want a monkey around with the SAT and this whole transition to digital and you'd rather just stick to an old fashioned test, you might opt for the act. Most colleges don't care whether you take an SAT or an ACT. And especially if you like or perform better on the ACT, then there's no reason that you shouldn't go with the ACT and not even bother with the SAT. Okay, I think that's enough about the situation with current sophomores. They're the ones that need to think this through the most.

[00:19:02] For the current freshmen and middle schoolers. Presumably a lot of these wrinkles will be ironed out by the time they have to sit for the new digital SAT. There will have been millions of students by then who have test driven this new format, and they will make changes to make sure that this test stays relevant. Remember, the College Board has hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the rollout of this digital SAT. So they will be very open to feedback and very open to making any adjustments necessary for this test to remain relevant. There's a lot on the line here. So if I'm a freshman or I'm a middle schooler, I would just sit tight. Assume that you'll be taking a digital SAT in your junior year if you choose to take the SAT versus the ACT. The Act has not yet committed to going 100% digital yet. Many think that they're intentionally stalling and positioning themselves as a safe haven test for those students who don't want to experiment with the digital SAT format. That may be the case. We'll see how long that lasts. My general advice for freshmen and middle schoolers who want to get a head start on preparing for the SAT or the ACT is not to take books out of the library and start practice tests right away. It's too early for that. The two things to do for general SAT and ACT prep at that age are number one become an avid reader, and number two, really get your math fundamentals down pat, even if that means getting a tutor or going to office hours with your teacher or supplementing with Khan Academy, whatever it takes. Since math is cumulative in nature, you don't want to have any gaps in your learning that will create bigger problems later on. So make sure you're addressing issues now. Well, that's the lowdown on the new digital assets. I will certainly get back to you with updates as we get closer and closer to this transition, and I will have some more specific advice on how to prepare for the digital only SAT.

[00:21:09] In review, current seniors in juniors won't have to deal with this transition. Current sophomores will have to deal with this transition. And they should make thoughtful decisions about which way they want to go. And freshman and middle schoolers should not worry at all about this because this is going to be par for the course by the time they eventually become juniors. Again, if you want to sharpen the pencil on this even more and lay out a very specific plan with details and deadlines, don't hesitate to reach out to me and we'll set up a call. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for the continued support. If you know a parent with a 6th, 7th, 8th grade or 9th grader, 10th grade or 11th grader in high school, that might find this helpful. Please share the episode with them. You can do that by finding that small box with a tiny arrow pointing up. That's the share button. Click that button. Text your friends the link to this episode with a little personal note from you recommending that they give it a listen. Give us a reading, too. If you like what you hear, apparently that helps our podcast reach a wider audience. If you have questions, comments, or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email at DM on Instagram. Check out our blog, our Facebook page. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Until next week. Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing. This podcast is brought to you by PrepWell Academy. PrepWell Academy is my one of a kind online mentoring program that delivers to your 9th or 10th grader a short, highly relevant video from me every week. Every Sunday, in fact, where I give them a heads up about what they should be thinking about to stay ahead of the game, to get these valuable lessons into your child's hands. Please head over to PrepWell and enroll your child today.

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