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U.S. students will take the SAT entirely online beginning in 2024

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have an update now for students thinking about college. The SATs - you know, the college entrance exams long associated with paper and sharpened No. 2 pencils - the SATs will soon go digital. Starting in 2024, students in the U.S. will take the test on computers and tablets at testing centers.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And here's some good news for anxious test-takers - the digital exam will have shorter reading sections, and you can use calculators on the math section. But some colleges across the country have already made standardized admission tests optional.

BOB SCHAEFFER: So right now 1,816 - more than 75% of all the nation's four-year schools - are test optional for fall 2022 applicants.

INSKEEP: That's Bob Schaeffer, executive director of FairTest, which is a Massachusetts nonprofit that lobbies for colleges to treat students as more than a score. He says test-free admissions was partly spurred on by the pandemic, and he's hoping the trend sticks.

SCHAEFFER: The test is a poor predictor of undergraduate success. The tests have demonstrable biases in terms of gender, in terms of language, in terms of special education students.

MARTIN: Schaeffer points to the University of California's system, which permanently removed the standardized tests from its admissions process back in November. And California State University, the largest four-year university system in the country, is poised to scrap the SAT and ACT admission requirement, too.

SCHAEFFER: In fact, for selective schools, when they go test-optional, they find that they get more applicants, they get better qualified applicants academically, and they get more diversity of all sorts in their application pipeline.

INSKEEP: With all of that said, a lot of colleges do give a look at your scores, and more than a dozen states still require the SAT or ACT to graduate. The College Board, the organization behind the SAT, argues the test still plays a vital role in holistic admissions, and by going digital, the organization hopes the SATs will stay relevant.

(SOUNDBITE OF KIEFER'S "SUPERHERO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.