The Ultimate Guide to the New Digital SAT
A major change came to the SAT in March 2023, the exam transitioned from paper and pencil to a fully digital format for all students outside the U.S (The SAT will be completely digital for U.S students in March 2024). This shift marks one of the most significant updates in the SAT’s 97-year history and aims to make the test more equitable, secure, and aligned with how students learn today.
Read on for a comprehensive guide on what to expect with the new digital SAT, including the latest information on timing, scoring, content, practice resources, and test-day tips. With the right preparation, you can feel fully confident tackling the test when it launches.
Testing Format and Devices
One of the biggest changes is that the SAT will now be administered entirely on a computer, tablet, or laptop. You’ll have two options for devices:
1. Bring your own – You can take the test on a personal or school-issued laptop or tablet. Your device must have Wi-Fi connectivity and meet the College Board’s requirements for operating systems, battery life, and storage space.
2. Borrow one – If you don’t have access to a suitable device, request to borrow one from the College Board when you register for the test. You’ll pick up the loaner device on test day.
In either case, you’ll need to download the College Board’s custom digital testing application called Bluebook in advance. This app delivers the exam in a secure environment optimized for the digital format. Make sure your computer is fully charged when you arrive on test day since you’ll need it for the full exam duration.
You can also bring your own headphones, keyboard, mouse, or other assistive technology as needed, provided it is on the College Board’s approved list. Just check ahead that any external devices are compatible if you plan to use a school-issued laptop.
Adaptive Testing Format
One major benefit of the digital SAT is the adaptive testing format. This means the questions you see will adapt to your skill level as you progress through the exam:
– The test is divided into two sections – Reading/Writing and Math.
– Each section has two parts called “modules”. You’ll answer one module at a time.
– Your performance on the first module determines the difficulty of the second module.
If you successfully answer many of the questions in module 1, you’ll receive a more challenging set of questions in module 2. If you struggle with module 1, module 2 will be easier.
This personalized, tailored approach allows the SAT to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses accurately and efficiently. Research shows adaptive testing provides several advantages, including more precise scores, individualized questions to meet student needs, shorter test times, and enhanced security.
Full Test Structure
(Note: There is a 10 minute break between the Reading and Writing and Math sections)|
Timing and Pacing
The adaptive format also allows the College Board to shorten the exam length. The current SAT takes 3 hours to complete; the digital version will be just 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Despite the reduced total time, you’ll actually have more time per question. The test will feature shorter reading passages and more focused math questions.
You can take advantage of the expanded pace per question by:
– Reading passages strategically – identify key points vs reading every word
– Making quick eliminations on multiple choice before selecting your answer
– Using process of elimination on math questions to narrow choices
– Avoiding getting bogged down by difficult questions; flag them to come back later
The streamlined digital interface means less time wasted passing out papers and switching sections. The majority of pre-administration activities will happen before test day as well.
The new SAT continues to be scored on a familiar 400-1600 scale, so you can still monitor your progress over time across exam dates. A score of 1050 on the digital test equates to a 1050 on the paper version – the scores mean the same thing.
However, you should be aware of some scoring differences with the new format:
– You’ll get scores back in just days rather than weeks thanks to instant digital scoring (However, currently, students are still receiving their digital SAT scores in 2 week)
– To achieve a top score, you MUST qualify for the harder module 2 based on your module 1 performance. If you take the easier module 2, you can’t reach the highest score range.
– With the adaptive format, there are now different scoring ranges for the easier vs. harder module 2:
Easier module 2: 400-1420
Harder module 2: 400-1600
This means it’s critical to pace yourself appropriately on module 1 and avoid making careless mistakes. You’ll want to ensure you are directed to the more challenging second module to reach top scores.
The College Board states the digital SAT will maintain the same level of reliability and validity as the paper version. Extensive research is underway examining score relationships and predictive validity.
The paper SAT has suffered from several cheating incidents over the years that led to canceled scores and frustrated students. The digital format makes sharing answers extremely difficult for two key reasons:
1. You will receive a unique set of questions tailored to your performance. It will be nearly impossible for two students to have identical test forms.
2. The exam software has built-in security monitoring that analyzes factors like response time to detect potential cheating. Suspicious activity results in detailed investigations.
These security enhancements give colleges confidence that students’ scores reflect their true abilities. The College Board states the digital SAT allows every student to receive an individual test form, making large-scale cancellations far less likely.
Test Content and Questions
The transition to digital allows the College Board to update certain aspects of the SAT’s format and content. However, the exam will continue assessing the same core skills related to reading, writing, math, and analysis. Key content changes to expect:
– Shorter reading passages, with only 1 question tied to each passage. This allows a wider range of topics to be covered.
– Greater emphasis on humanities and social sciences passages. You’ll also see some literary fiction.
– Questions grouped by skill type – for example, verb tense, data analysis, etc. – rather than by passage topic.
– No more sentence completions. Cloze deletions will also be eliminated.
– Vocabulary in context remains important, but focused on widely used words. More straightforward vocabulary questions.
– The Reading and Writing sections will be combined into one 60-minute section.
– Calculators permitted throughout entire section. The digital test provides an on-screen calculator so you don’t need to bring your own (although you can).
– Math questions presented more visually with charts, graphs, and tables. Multi-step questions broken into parts.
– Real-world math problems are more direct. Less intricate scenarios described in paragraphs.
– Increased focus on algebra, data analysis, statistics. More geometry and trigonometry questions as well.
– No more quantitative comparison questions or math questions involving reading comprehension.
The math section will also be 60 minutes. As you can see, question types are shifting to be more straightforward, clear, and concise on the digital test. But the underlying skills remain the same, so you’ll prepare in similar ways.
Official Practice Resources
The College Board offers several official digital practice resources to experience the test format and brush up on your skills:
– Full-length practice tests on Bluebook app – These are adaptive to mimic the actual test environment.
– Sample questions – The College Board has released some actual questions from the digital test for each section so you can get familiar with the formatting.
-Full-length non-linear practice tests- These are non-adaptive tests released by college board as pdfs, despite there being a considerable amount of overlap between these tests and the adaptive ones on the Bluebook app, you can still find extra practice questions not used in the adaptive tests. You can access the tests here (https://satsuite.collegeboard.org/digital/digital-practice-preparation/practice-tests/linear)
Make sure to take full advantage of these official tools in your prep over the next year. Practicing digitally helps you feel comfortable with the interface, pacing, and mechanics before test day.
Test Day Tips
Here are some key test-day tips and strategies to ensure you’re ready to conquer the new digital SAT:
– Arrive early and make sure to know exactly where your test center is located. Give yourself plenty of extra time in case of traffic or transportation issues.
– Pack a snack and water to have on breaks. Testing on a computer can strain your eyes more than paper, so bring eye drops too if desired.
– Have your testing ticket, ID, pencils, approved calculator, and other items ready the night before. Print out your ticket if testing somewhere unfamiliar.
– Ensure your computer is 100% charged when you leave home and turn off all notifications/sounds. Connect to power at the test center if possible.
– Stay calm and focused. The digital test may feel new and different at first. Stick to your preparation and don’t panic if the format is unfamiliar.
– Use your break time to walk around, stretch, eat, and re-energize before starting the next section. Don’t discuss test content with other students during the break.
– Report any technical issues immediately to the testing staff instead of spending time troubleshooting yourself. They can document incidents and provide assistance.
– At the end, cancel any packet submission requests if you want to review answers and fill in blanks first. Double check you did not mis-bubble any questions.
With strategic preparation and a smart test day approach, you can successfully transition to the digital SAT when it launches.
In the transition to a digital SAT, the College Board aimed to make the test better reflect how students learn today. The adaptive format provides a more secure, time-efficient, and personalized experience.
While you’ll notice positive changes in the content and interface, the exam still measures the core skills essential for college and career success. Be sure to use official practice tests and resources to get comfortable with the digital experience.