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The Campus Lantern

The Campus Lantern

Illuminating the past

Back to the future with computerized testing
Anderson Swanger
The Kingsley gym is ready for the first computerized PSAT test. (Courtney West)

At Chestnut Hill Academy in 1982, in volume 55 of The Campus Lantern, an unknown writer titled their article “Computer SAT Testing Is in the Near Future.”

The author went on to say, “Some high school students seem to like taking a test on a computer and many of them prefer it to paper and pencil examination.”

“The idea,” continued this writer, “is that people can be tested more effectively, with fewer questions and less time, if they are given only questions suited to their particular levels of ability.” 

Those original reasons for taking computerized tests hold true, and 42 years later, the computerized PSAT and SAT are being rolled out across the United States, replacing their old-fashioned paper and pencil counterparts. 

In January of 2022, The College Board, an organization that develops and administers standardized tests, announced that the SAT would be delivered digitally in order to improve the format of the test itself. At that time, the vice president of college readiness assessment at College Board, Priscilla Rodriguez, said the digital version would be “easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant.” Among other features, the new SAT would feature a shorter testing period, topics that were more related to college courses, and allowed calculator use. 

The roll out of the digital PSAT and SAT is on schedule so far, with schools including SCH taking the online PSAT the third week of October. The actual SAT should be fully incorporated by spring 2024.

In an email, Mr. Bergmann, an SCH math teacher commented, “I can think of four reasons why SCH student can get excited about switching to digital.” He proceeded to list the reasons:

  1. “The digital SAT is adaptive and can therefore be shorter. That is, the College Board claims to be able to score your performance more quickly and in fewer questions because it takes info from section 1 to design a section 2 that is at your ability level. 
  2. When you practice SAT questions on your own computer, you can be sure that you are simulating the test very well.
  3. I’m a big fan of the Desmos calculator (over TI-nSpire) and really glad to see it on the SATs. Overall I think it’s a good thing for students. 
  4. The new SATs have no long reading passages. The previous SATs had long passages to read (it took 3+ minutes to read the whole thing), and I don’t know anybody who is sorry to see them go.”

Head of School Dr. Dinkins can see still see the benefits of paper and pencil testing. He commented, “Sometimes there is a difference in learning outcomes when you’re learning digitally versus analog, you know?…If [the digital SAT]  shows that they’re going to do better on it and be able to show what they know, then I’m all for it, but if it’s determined that they’re not performing as well because it’s digital then it’s entirely possible that we return to the original version.”

At this point, it’s hard to tell whether or not the digitalization of the test will bring more problems than solutions, although the benefit most certainly seems to outweigh small complaints or software issues. It is also important to realize that experiences with the SAT vary dramatically from student to student.

Mr. Bergman wrote, “Any time there is a big change like this, there are always going to be winners and losers. Some kids are going to score better and feel better about the change. Others will not. And others (outside of SCH) might not even have the privilege of owning a computer and so not even have the opportunity to see if they prefer digitization or not.”

Either way, the future is now, people!!!!

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About the Contributor
Anderson Swanger
Anderson Swanger, Staff Writer
Anderson is in his junior year at SCH. He recently started writing for The Campus Lantern in his free time, but you can almost always find him on the soccer field or in the training room.
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