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Lancer Spotlight 4/16/24: The SATs Go Virtual

A student studies for the SAT online since the new format means the test will be taken virtually.
Delaney Browne
A student studies for the SAT online since the new format means the test will be taken virtually.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has been a major factor in high school students’ lives for almost 100 years. The first test was offered in 1926 and was vastly different from today’s test. 

The SAT was created by Carl Brigham, who had worked on an Army IQ screen known as the Army Alpha Test. Brigham based his test off of the Army Alpha Test and it quickly gained in popularity.

Ivy League schools were now beginning to use this test to find students who were worthy of being a part of their college, with some colleges forcing students to take the test, such as Harvard who made it a requirement as of 1935.

However, the SAT is becoming less relevant in recent years. While in previous years, without the help of the SAT or its counterpart the ACT, another aptitude test has a slightly different set up, it was almost impossible to get into top colleges although this is no longer the case. As of fall 2023, 80% of four year colleges do not require either of the aptitude tests.

Still the test is popular within the state of Maryland, with 71% of students opting to take the SATs either way. Still the decline among states is noticeable, with some states having as low as 3% of students taking the aptitude test.

In order to keep the SAT relevant, the College Board has taken a new approach to the test, making it completely virtual. The new virtual test is only just beginning to take place, with Linganore High School (LHS) first using the format during the pre-SAT (PSAT) which took place on October 11. 

The first time the new virtual format was used for the SAT itself was on March 20. Many juniors felt tense when going into the test.

“I felt anxious and nervous to take the SAT, but I was curious to test my knowledge,” said LHS junior, Trinity Jurao.

The class of 2025 was going into a fairly new experience for most of them, seeing as the PSAT they took the year before was the paper test version. When comparing the tests, many believed it to be easier than the old format.

“I thought the new online test felt simpler and there were not as many reading passages as the paper version,” said Jurao. “I would take the online test over the paper because it felt quicker to me.”

The new structure is significantly shorter than the prior format, largely due to the former reading and writing sections being combined and the math sections now being one that fully allows calculators.

Both the reading and writing part of the test and the math portion are now split into two subsections. These subsections, also called modules, are equal in length but the second module will defer based on how you did in the first part. The first module has a mixture of easy, medium, and hard questions – if you do well with these questions then the second part of the section will give you harder questions, while failing to answer the questions from the first module will force you into an easier second half.

“I think it is helpful since it will allow the test scores to be more accurate to you as a person,” said sophomore student at LHS, Natalie Miller, who was one of the first students to use the new format during the 2024 PSAT.

The new format has been recognized for being better than the old ones by a majority of both the sophomores and juniors at Linganore, however seniors seem to disagree. For all of them, the test was on paper and was split in a different way. 

Instead of one reading and writing section split into two modules and one calculator-allowed section with two modules, the former format was split into reading then writing, and math had both a no-calculator and calculator section.

“I think that it [the new format] is weird and should not have been changed to online,” says senior and class of 2024 president, Grace Booth. “It has always been on paper, that’s how it should be.”

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