With the announcement of the new digital SAT, College Board has left some key details out, especially regarding how the exam will be scored. The typical message has been somewhat dismissive, assuring us that the scoring is handled by their finely tuned algorithm and that it’s complicated. Through analysis of the new SAT’s scoring, it was found that each test question is weighted, with some questions having a greater impact on scores than others do. Although the College Board hasn’t officially provided the criteria for this weighting (which they refer to as “item response scoring”), they explained to us that it is based on a variety of factors, including the skills involved in solving the problem, how well those skills differentiate students, and whether students can simplify the problem by eliminating answer choices.
If you have taken the new SAT practice tests, you may have noticed that the test forms are fairly standardized. For example, every time you take Practice Test #1, you will always receive the same first Math module, and your performance will place you into one of two forms of the second Math module. On official test administrations, there will be much more variety, as each student will receive a unique assortment of questions. The SAT’s new system aggregates test forms from a vast collection of questions, which are each given categories and “weights,” as mentioned earlier. The digital test system uses this data to build a unique test form for each student while ensuring each test form aligns to standards of content and difficulty. This variety should discourage cheating among students on official tests.
College Board expects to release a new edition of their physical “blue book” of practice tests in summer 2023. They also plan to have more than the 4 tests currently available in the digital testing app. To provide tests in the physical book, a few compromises and complications are unavoidable. For example, students may need to evaluate their own performance after their first modules are completed so they can determine whether they should be placed in the higher or lower second modules. In this way, the test would still be adaptive, but the process would be manual.
Further, the scoring of these tests will be less precise, particularly at the top and bottom of the score ranges for both the higher and lower modules. This lack of precision is due to the scoring system being simplified to allow for easier calculation since students will need to determine their scores on their own rather than rely on the complex scoring algorithm that manages the digital version of the test. College Board officials are still discussing the best ways to deliver their digital SAT in a physical format, so we’ll need to wait for more certain plans.
For more information on the digital SAT, please click here.
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