Recent and Upcoming Changes to the SAT for 2024

Written by CIT Consultant Anne Weber

The game of volleyball and the SAT have a lot in common. If you played high school volleyball like I did (way, way back in the 1980’s) and you watch volleyball played today, save for the court and net, you might think it’s a different sport. The rules of volleyball, the play of the game, even the players have all changed. That’s a lot like the SAT. In fact if you examine the history of the SAT, you’ll note dozens of “side-outs”, way too many “service faults”, and more than a few “tough calls.” 

And while I might be a little bit nostalgic for the old sport, I readily admit watching today’s college volleyball is thrilling! In recent years, the SAT has tried to correct some of its inherent flaws. And while few of us would claim the test to be a thrill, we can cheer for efforts toward an equitable test. 

Sports fans love stats, so without going into an exhaustive play-by-play recap, let’s look at today’s SAT statistics, the notable changes in recent years, and the changes coming to the SAT in 2024.

SAT Statistics:

  • The SAT tests students in Math and Evidence Based Reading/Writing for a combined possible score of 1600
  • 1.9 million students took the SAT in 2023
  • The average test score in 2023 was 1028, down from 1050 in the prior year

Recent Notable Changes:

  • From 2005 to 2016, the SAT changed from a 1600 point system to a three-part 2400 point scoring system, which included Writing, Reading, and Mathematics
  • In 2008, a photo identification process upon entry was instituted to combat cheating
  • In 2016, the SAT returned to a 1600 point system, however Critical Reading was replaced with Evidence-based Reading, the Essay became optional, and points were no longer deducted for wrong answers (only correct answers add points)
  • In 2019 the SAT attempted to account for the inherent bias of the test by adding an “adversity score”. This was met with further backlash and quickly abandoned
  • In 2021-2022, amongst the chaos of trying to administer the test during the pandemic, subject-matter tests were discontinued and have not been reinstated

Changes Coming to the SAT in 2024:

  • The SAT will be delivered in an all-digital format
  • Students can bring their own laptop/tablet or will be given one at a designated test site
  • A graphic Calculator will be provided on screen and allowed during the math section
  • The entire test will be reduced from three hours to just two hours
  • Reading passages will be shorter and will only have one question for each 
  • The digital test will be adaptive, making the test shorter, more secure and more efficient
  • Scores will be available in days rather than weeks

The changes in game format have welcomed volleyball fandom. Only time will tell if the planned changes to the 2024 SAT will yield points, engender fans, or benefit students.

But will these changes make the test more valuable to colleges and universities? In 2023 only a small minority of colleges required test scores of applicants (mostly highly technical institutions). In fact, most of higher education has determined that the increased number of applicants received since going test-optional has far outweighed the benefits of having an applicant’s test score. 

Will the changes in the test increase test scores? Since peaking in 2018, average SAT score has continued to fall. Many blame this on the academic ground students lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some see this as an expected byproduct of more students taking the test due to access on SAT School Day offered to juniors and seniors during the school day. Perhaps a shorter, less grueling exam will help. Perhaps access to a calculator will approximate a more accurate “real life” math capability. 

And will the changes in the SAT have any effect on the continued bias against black, Latin-X, and Native students? While the SAT claims to have worked diligently to eliminate cultural bias from the content, the scores would suggest otherwise. Scores still favor the wealthy. Scores still disproportionately affect black, Latin-X and Native American students, who score significantly lower than their white and Asian counterparts.  


Sources: PBS, HigherEdDive, BestColleges, PowerScore, Wikipedia