The College Board said the electronic version of the SAT would...

The College Board said the electronic version of the SAT would be reduced in time length from about three hours to two, with shorter reading passages on a wider range of topics that students read about in college. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Put down the No. 2 pencils — because the SAT college-entrance exam is going digital over the next two years, with the new version due to appear on Long Island in 2024, sponsors announced Tuesday.

The Manhattan-based College Board, which introduced the exam's first pencil-and-paper version in 1926, said the new electronic model would be cut in length from about three hours to two, with shorter reading passages on a wider variety of topics. Students will be allowed to use calculators on the test's entire math section, rather than just a portion as is now the case.

What to know

The SAT college-entrance exam is going digital, with the new version due to appear on Long Island in 2024, sponsors announced Tuesday.

The Manhattan-based College Board introduced the exam's first pencil-and-paper version in 1926.

The College Board said the new electronic model would be cut in length from about three hours to two, with shorter reading passages on a wider variety of topics.

Sponsors added that digital tests will be more secure than paper-and-pencil versions, because computerization will allow each student to receive a unique form of the exam. SATs will continue to be administered in schools and other testing centers, rather than remotely at home, and proctors will continue their on-site surveillance.

The College Board's schedule calls for digital exams to be administered internationally for the first time in 2023, followed by a domestic U.S. introduction the following year. A pilot version was tried out in November.

"The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give and more relevant," Priscilla Rodriguez, a vice president at the College Board, said in a statement. "With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving need."

Some local school staffers and students who have experienced the ups and downs of online education during the COVID-19 pandemic voiced misgivings about the new testing process. They worry about potential computer breakdowns.

One specific question raised by several was the degree of training that would be required for proctors who have not dealt with high-tech issues in the past.

"There will be a lot of technology logistics to work out prior to implementation," said Sue Moller, a guidance counselor at Lynbrook High School in southern Nassau County.

Moller, a past president of the Nassau Counselors' Association, added that her district has worked hard on increasing online skills locally, by providing all secondary students with their own electronic tablets.

At Uniondale High School, 11th-grader Reynaldo Marquez said he personally would rather stick with pencil-and-paper tests.

"I just really prefer paper," said Marquez, 16, who is taking advanced courses at his school. "It's difficult online."

The College Board reported, on the other hand, that 80% of students piloting digital SATs described them as less stressful than paper exams. All proctors agreed the pilot experience was the same or better than working with traditional tests, sponsors added.

No fee level has yet been set for the new SAT. The current application fee is $55, with some discounts provided to students based on family incomes.

The SAT, formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, remains the college-admissions exam most often taken by students in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and elsewhere in New York State. However, the exam's role as a gatekeeper in college admissions has waned a bit in recent years.

For example, more than 1,815 colleges and universities now employ test-optional or test-blind policies in deciding which applicants will be admitted, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, also known as Fair Test. The watchdog group long has contended that tests such as the SAT give an advantage to students who can afford private tutoring.

Fair Test's list includes most of the nation's highly selective campuses, including the private Columbia, Cornell and Stanford universities, along with public systems in states such as California, Colorado and Illinois.

"Evaluating undergraduate applicants without test scores is here to stay," said Bob Schaeffer, executive director of Fair Test. Schaeffer added that more than three-fifths of colleges and universities remained committed to test-optional or test-blind approaches for fall 2023 applicants.

College Board officials said the SAT still has an important role to perform in determining which high school students are capable of doing college work. Those officials suggested that high school grades alone may not suffice in aiding such decisions since, they said, the share of students graduating from high schools with "A" averages has risen to 55%.

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