What exactly will test day look like for students taking the new digital SAT? Here are the latest updates, which include information about devices, scratch paper, and a "help room" for students who run into technical issues.
1. The College Board will provide devices to students who need them—including those testing internationally.
Approved devices for digital SAT test-takers include a Mac or Windows laptop, a tablet/iPad, or a school-managed Chromebook. The College Board has confirmed that if you're participating in SAT Weekend testing (domestically or internationally) and don't have access to a personal or school-issued device, the College Board will provide you with one.
This is reassuring news for students and counselors worried about seating capacity at international test centers. Ensuring that every student can borrow or bring their own device removes a major logistical hurdle from the equation, since test centers will not need to supply devices or set up dedicated computer labs in order to administer the digital SAT.
2. Students must fully charge their devices in advance.
If you're planning to bring your own laptop on test day—which we recommend doing if possible—your device must be fully charged. Test centers are not obligated to provide power to every student (only those with extended time), although the College Board asks "as a courtesy to students" that test centers make the most of the available power outlets in each room.
Important note: students will not be able to view their battery percentage while in the digital testing app.
For what it's worth, test administrators during the November pilot said they were pleasantly surprised to see that students generally came prepared and fully charged. Furthermore, they found that the vast majority of devices had ample power to get through the test, since the exam is now only two hours long.
3. Students should download the digital testing app before test day.
To streamline the testing process, students are encouraged to download the digital testing app prior to showing up at the test center. (And test administrators will be able to see which students have not yet downloaded the app.)
When the test is ready to begin, you will see a lockdown screen reminding you that you cannot access other apps or programs during the exam. Once you click "Next," the exam app will lock down your device. In order to officially begin testing, you will then need to enter a start code provided to you by your proctor. For that reason, you and the other test-takers in your room will reach the break screen and the end of the test at slightly staggered times, and you'll be dismissed individually when you've finished the exam.
4. Every test center will have a technology coordinator to help troubleshoot issues.
The College Board is introducing the role of "technology coordinator" for digital SAT administrations. Test centers will need to recruit someone to serve in this role, but the College Board will provide that person with training.
During the test, the technology coordinator will be based in a "help room," which is where proctors can send students who are having technical issues. If you need assistance, you can get help from the technology coordinator before returning to your testing room and resuming the exam. Other test center staff will continue to include a test coordinator, proctors, and hall monitors.
5. Students can use scratch paper during the test.
There are other digital exams that do not allow paper (instead providing whiteboards, for example), but students taking the digital SAT will be able to use traditional scratch paper to write out their work. We're awaiting more information, but our guess is that scratch paper will be provided at the test center like it was for this year's digital AP exams.
6. The test day experience will be shorter.
In addition to the test itself getting shorter, test day "lead time" (the amount of time that passes from students taking their seats to actually starting the exam) will drop from 20-30 minutes to only 3-5 minutes. Now that proctors no longer need to hand out paper testing booklets or read lengthy scripts, students will be able to dive right in.
However, students should be aware that because not all students will start their exams at the exact same moment, some students may begin their breaks while others are still working. Reports from pilot tests indicate that students have been respectful of their fellow test-takers, trying to move around quietly, but this is still an added distraction that students should be aware of and mentally prep for in advance.
Need more individualized advice?
The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.
ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.