Research Supporting the Use of the SAT

The SAT is used by K–12 for state accountability testing and by K–12 and colleges for assessing college and career readiness.

The SAT is a valuable part of college enrollment management processes because it's a strong predictor of college success. This is accomplished by:

  1. Basing the test design and content on a solid foundation of high-quality research:
    1. A curriculum survey planned for 2023–24 to update College Board's data identifying the skills and knowledge that postsecondary educators believe are prerequisite to success in their first-year, entry-level courses.
    2. Alignment studies (conducted internally by College Board beginning in 2022 and with a third-party firm in 2022–23) documenting the degree of alignment in reading, writing, and math between state academic standards and the skill/knowledge elements tested on the digital SAT Suite.
    3. Close collaboration with and review by a range of independent experts, including subject matter experts at the secondary and postsecondary levels, to ensure that the tests and their questions are sufficiently challenging to assess the knowledge and higher-order skills and knowledge students need to be ready for college and careers.
    4. Cognitive lab (verbal protocol) studies in 2022–23 to confirm that, like the current paper and pencil SAT, digital SAT questions elicit the sorts of higher-order, cognitively complex thinking required by students for college and career readiness and by federal peer reviewers evaluating state accountability systems.
  2. Maintaining strong continuity with the paper-based SAT in terms of the knowledge, skills, and content domains assessed:
    1. Robust content development and psychometric processes to verify that digital SAT test questions are comparable in difficulty to those used on the paper and pencil version of the test.
    2. Value in congruity: Based on more than 220,000 students attending 165 colleges and universities, we know that current SAT scores are useful predictors of first-semester college course performance in the matching academic domains. Beyond these empirical links to college readiness in literacy and math, many studies have also demonstrated the strong validity of the SAT for predicting key college outcomes, including first-year grade-point average (FYGPA), retention through each year of college, and degree completion.
  3. An ongoing, comprehensive, and rigorous validity research agenda:
    1. Convergent validity study (results to be shared in September 2022) that examines digital SAT score relationships with other educational measures (e.g., high school GPA, average AP Exam score, etc.) that assess similar constructs and compares those relationships to current paper and pencil SAT score relationships with the same measures.
    2. Pilot predictive validity study (results to be shared in March 2023 and August 2023) to examine the relationship of SAT scores to college outcomes.
    3. National digital SAT predictive validity study conducted after the availability of sufficient college outcomes data from operational testing administrations (starting with the entering college class of fall 2025 and continuing longitudinally).
    4. Institution or system-specific validity studies conducted using the Admitted Class Evaluation Service (ACES). ACES remains available to institutions to conduct their own campus-specific studies, free of charge. These studies help colleges and universities use the SAT in college admission, placement, advising, and scholarship decisions.