Young man using laptop working at home, studying online

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Starting 2024 for college hopefuls in the U.S. (and one year sooner for non-American college entrants), the SAT is doing away with the paper-and-pencil format for good. Instead, the well-known exam (which is owned and administered by the College Board, a private company) will go digital.

The change comes about as numerous high schools have embraced distance learning in light of the pandemic, and colleges are increasingly disregarding the SAT (and its rival test, the ACT) as a requirement for admission.

“It will be a better, more flexible test that’s easier to take, easier to give, more secure, and more relevant, said Priscilla Rodriguez, the VP for the College Board’s College Readiness Assessments division. “That’s because the SAT continues to open doors for students of all backgrounds… As the daughter of immigrants, the SAT gave me access to colleges, scholarships, and educational opportunities I never would have had access to or even known about,” she later added in her statement.

There long have been arguments to get rid of college entry exams due to claims of implicit bias. Two years ago, the University of California (the largest university system in the United States) made the decision to no longer consider the SAT or ACT anymore, with one official calling the tests “a proxy for privilege.” They pointed to data that suggests the test are skewed towards white, Asian-American, and wealthier students.

The move was later followed by Harvard University in 2021, which said it would make the SAT and ACT optional through 2026. (The policy was first adopted during the pandemic but the institution has chosen to extend it for the foreseeable future.)

Kent R. Hopkins, vice president for academic enterprise enrollment at Arizona State University, simply felt that the upgrade from analog to digital was just the right tech decision to make. “It’s about time that they’ve moved away from paper and pencil,” he told the NYT.

However, proponents of the tests echo Ms. Rodriguez’s claims, too. The SAT and ACT were found to be good predictors of college success, particularly for freshman year. “[The University of California] also found that including the SAT and ACT in the formula for admissions helped some black, Hispanic and low-income students by offering an additional metric for those who might have been rejected based on grades,” noted the New York Times last year.