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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

New SAT format addresses accessibility

Michael Manganello, Ph.D., said students have been giving positive feedback about the new SAT math rules. PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’24/THE HAWK.

Starting in 2024, high school students across the U.S. will not need their number two pencils for the SAT.

The newly formatted SAT, announced by the College Board in November 2021, will be in an entirely digital format which students can take on laptops, tablets or other computer devices. The test will also be shorter in length and feature adaptive questions, which means the test will change the level of question difficulty based on a student’s performance. Though the exam will still have a reading, writing and language, and math sections, reading passages will be shorter and all math sections will allow calculators. 

Michael Manganello, Ph.D., adjunct professor of math and senior director of pre-AP STEM curriculum and instruction at the College Board, said feedback from students about the new format has been positive.

“The anecdotal reports from students who have taken the new digital SAT have said that they felt a lot less stressed,” Manganello said. “I imagine that’s probably going to be one of the biggest effects, students will feel less stress going in and less tired coming out.”

One of the most notable differences in the new SAT is the lack of a non-calculator math section. Previously, students had to prove their arithmetic skills through math done exclusively with a paper and a pencil. Now, an embedded calculator will be provided, and the entirety of the math section will be calculator based. 

The removal of the non-calculator section aligns with the current teachings of mathematics and the application of math in the working world, Manganello said.

“The trend to use calculators in math education is really a response to the kind of quantitative analytical mathematical thinking that is more useful in 21st-century society,” Manganello said. “People need to do more analysis and less number crunching.”

Joseph Kelly ’24, who took the SAT in the spring of 2018, said he believes the non-calculator section was far more difficult than the calculator-based math section. 

“It’s a lot easier to plug stuff into your calculator than it is to actually know the methods and be able to perform the algebra to get the answer right,” Kelly said. “I would much rather take the SAT without the non-calculator section.”

Previously, the College Board did not provide calculators to students taking the SAT, so many students had to buy calculators to take the test. In the new digital SAT, there will be an embedded calculator for every student.

But Toby Oves, a college and career counselor at Ocean City School District in Ocean City, New Jersey, said the embedded calculator may not solve all accessibility issues.

“Students might be more comfortable using their own devices,” Oves said. “An embedded calculator could be an entirely new concept for someone, so it could certainly be a hurdle or a disadvantage for that student that prefers using their own because it’s familiar. I always use my own calculator. If I had to take a test and use a new, completely different formatted calculator, I don’t know how well I would do.”

Karina Hirschfield, a college counselor at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, said the SAT has always had equity issues. More privileged students can afford resources such as tutors, fancy calculators, preparation classes and practice tests. An embedded calculator does not necessarily change all that, Hirschfield said.

“With this change, we have to ask, will all students have the same internet speed and computer availability across the board?” Hirschfield said. “Some [students] will experience lack of access to internet speed, some will experience tech issues, maybe outages and interruptions. When we’re thinking about equity and giving students access, those issues around access should be continued to be addressed.”

But Hirschfield said she appreciates how the College Board is “stepping up” by including an embedded calculator in the test. 

“I can imagine in certain schools with limited resources and less access, students getting access to the calculators, or maybe even not knowing how to use some of these graphing calculators, could be a problem. All of that causes a disadvantage,” Hirschfield said. “So it’s good that the College Board is providing a tool that students are required to use in a test.”

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