BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (NEWSnet/AP) — When SAT season begins this weekend, students across the U.S. will take it with computers and tablets, rather than pencils and paper.

Computer use is familiar territory for today's students, but some are still warming up to the format change in this circumstance.

“I’ve always been the type to do things on paper, so at first I didn’t really like it, but it’s not terrible,” said Rachel Morrow, a junior at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School in Birmingham, where students have been practicing with a digital version.

The digital SAT launch comes as its administrator, the College Board, and others who support standardized tests hope to win over schools and critics who are skeptical of its role in college admissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled a full SAT testing season. Many colleges dropped test requirements for those incoming students, and today most still leave it up to students to decide whether to submit scores.

Recently, a small number of highly selective colleges including Dartmouth and Brown announced they would resume requiring SAT or ACT scores. They say the tests allow them to identify promising students who might otherwise be overlooked — students from schools that don't offer advanced coursework and extracurriculars, and whose teachers may be stretched too thin to write glowing letters of recommendation.

About 1.9 million students in the class of 2023 took the SAT at least once, up from 1.7 million in 2022, according to the College Board.

Many students see upsides to taking the SAT, even if colleges don't require their scores

“A lot of people are going test-optional now but if you do put your scores in, you most likely will have an advantage,” Morrow said.

The test prep teacher, S’Heelia Marks, said the SAT is especially important for students like hers who are predominantly Black and Latino and often from low-income households.

“In America, those are strikes against you,” Marks said. “You need to have all of the advantages you can in order to compete. And so for colleges, if they’re test optional, and they don’t know the school you’re coming from or trust that those grades aren’t inflated in any kind of way, they’re going to go lean on their feeder schools that they do trust, and they’re actually excluding people more than you think they are.”

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