Are you planning on taking the SAT and wondering about the digital SAT format? We’ll cover everything you need to know about the new exam.
As technology evolves, so will our environment and how we do things; the digital SAT is a perfect example of this. The way we have taken the SAT in the past is changing to adapt to the new technologically advanced world.
As technology continues to shape how we learn and assess knowledge, the College Board has boldly moved to modernize the SAT and meet the demands of a digital age. This revolutionary change brings a host of benefits and considerations for test-takers.
In this article, we will explore the key features of the new SAT format, the main differences between the digital and old test, and the essential information you need to navigate this evolving exam format.
Whether you're a student preparing for the SAT or an educator guiding students through the process, understanding the ins and outs of the new digital SAT format is crucial for success in today's educational landscape.
So, when will the SAT changes happen? The transition from a paper and pencil format to a digital format for the SAT is set to occur at different times for international and US students.
International students have already experienced this change, as the digital SAT became their exclusive format starting in 2023. They no longer have the option to take the paper-and-pencil SAT.
For US students, the shift to a fully digital format will occur from January 2024 onward. Starting from that point, every SAT exam date in the US will be conducted solely in the digital format. This means that US students will no longer have the opportunity to take the pencil and paper version of the SAT once this change goes into effect.
However, if you’re a student with an accommodation that requires the paper version of the SAT, you can continue with the old format.
The new digital SAT is structured into two main sections: Reading and Writing, and Math, with a total test duration of 2 hours and 14 minutes. Students have 64 minutes for the Reading and Writing section and 70 minutes for the Math section.
Each section is split into two equal-length modules, separated by a 10-minute break. The first module in each section includes a mix of easy, medium, and hard questions. Depending on how well students perform in the first module, the second module's questions will be adjusted in difficulty.
Compared to the ACT, the SAT offers 68% more time per question, as shown in the following breakdown:
Most questions on the SAT are multiple-choice, though some math questions require entering the answer rather than selecting it. Importantly, there is no penalty for guessing on any of the questions, so it's encouraged to make an educated guess rather than leaving a response blank.
Below we’ll go in-depth on the differences between the two SAT formats.
The new digital SAT format introduces several changes in test times compared to the old paper-based format. One significant difference is the reduction in overall testing time.
One thing contributing to this lessened time allocation is that questions have been reduced in both the math, reading, and writing sections. For instance, in the math section, the old SAT exam had 58 questions, and in the new SAT format, there are 44 questions.
Students must manage their time effectively, ensuring they allocate sufficient time to answer all questions within each section while maintaining a steady pace.
One notable difference in the new digital SAT format is combining the SAT Reading and Writing sections, previously separate from the old paper-based test.
Combining the two sections simultaneously assesses a student's reading comprehension and writing skills. Test-takers will encounter 54 multiple-choice questions with the new exam format, each including a very short passage.
Whereas with the old format, test-takers encountered nine passages with 96 multiple-choice questions for the Reading and Writing sections combined.
This integration reflects the real-world application of these skills, as effective reading comprehension often goes hand-in-hand with the ability to analyze and communicate ideas in writing. By combining the Reading and Writing sections, the new digital SAT format presents a comprehensive and interconnected assessment.
The new SAT exam changes the Math section compared to the old paper-based format. One significant difference is allowing the use of calculators for all portions of the Math section. In the old exam, calculators were not allowed for all portions of this section.
Students can also use a graphing calculator that’s built into the testing app or bring their own approved calculator if they wish.
Let’s take a look at the main differences between the digital SAT and the old SAT. Below is a table that demonstrates this.
Adaptive testing is a unique feature of the digital SAT that dynamically adjusts the difficulty of questions based on a student's previous responses. In the old format, all students received the same questions, regardless of their performance.
However, with adaptive testing, the digital exam can tailor the test experience to each individual, presenting more challenging questions to those who answer correctly. This adaptive approach allows for a more personalized assessment, targeting a student's skill level and accurately measuring their abilities.
By adapting to the student's performance, the new digital SAT format ensures a more accurate evaluation of their knowledge and skills.
With the digital format, scoring is automated, allowing quicker processing and analysis of test responses. Test-takers can expect to receive their results within a few days of completing the test, as opposed to up to five weeks with the old exam.
This expedited feedback enables students to receive timely information about their performance and make informed decisions regarding college applications and future test preparations.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for the new SAT format.
Taking the SAT digital practice test can be invaluable in preparing for the new exam format. By replicating the digital testing experience, this practice test allows individuals to familiarize themselves with the tools, question types, and overall navigation of the test.
It provides an opportunity to adapt to the computer-based format and develop comfort and efficiency in using the online platform. Additionally practice tests helps individuals gauge their timing and pacing.
Analyzing the practice test results provides valuable insights into strengths and weaknesses, allowing test-takers to focus their study efforts on areas that require improvement.
If you’re interested in taking a digital SAT practice exam, here is the official one from the College Board.
A well-designed study plan provides structure and direction, ensuring you cover all exam sections and allocate enough time for each. A study plan helps individuals stay organized and accountable by outlining specific study goals and timelines. It allows for a review of the content, focusing on areas of weakness while reinforcing strengths.
Additionally, with a study plan, individuals can prioritize their study efforts, track progress, and ensure comprehensive preparation for the challenges of the new SAT format.
Similar to how an internship gives you practical knowledge and a taste of a future career, a solid SAT study plan provides useful experience in test strategies and mastering the material, boosting your odds of acing the exam.
SAT prep books are tailored to cover the content, strategies, and skills needed to excel on the exam. They comprehensively explain key concepts, offer practice questions, and often include full-length practice tests.
When selecting an SAT prep book, it is important to choose one that specifically addresses the digital format, ensuring that it offers guidance on using online tools, navigating the digital interface, and managing time effectively.
Utilizing an SAT prep book allows individuals to supplement their study plan with additional resources, gain a deeper understanding of the test content, and develop effective strategies for success in the new format.
The digital format offers increased flexibility within each section, allowing test-takers to navigate between questions and passages more easily. However, this flexibility also poses a challenge in managing time efficiently.
By practicing time management strategies during preparation, such as setting specific time limits for each section and monitoring your progress, you can train yourself to allocate sufficient time to answer all questions.
Timed practice tests will help you develop a sense of pacing and become comfortable with the allotted time for each section. Also, it is important to identify time-consuming question types or sections where you struggle and strategize accordingly.
Time management helps you complete the test within the given time constraints and also ensures that you allocate enough time to thoroughly read, analyze, and answer each question accurately.
We know preparing and taking the new SAT format can be stressful. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Taking care of one's physical and mental well-being is crucial for optimal performance on the exam.
Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and enough sleep are essential components of self-care that promote cognitive functioning and concentration.
It is equally important to manage stress and anxiety through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness exercises. Taking breaks, pursuing hobbies, and spending time with loved ones can help alleviate test-related pressure and maintain a healthy balance.
Do you still have questions about the new format for the SAT? Check out these frequently asked questions.
The difficulty level of the digital SAT is expected to be comparable to the traditional paper-based test.
While the new SAT format poses unique challenges for students, such as adapting to computer-based testing and navigating the online platform, these challenges do not directly pertain to the difficulty of the test content itself.
It is worth noting that the ease or difficulty of the digital SAT will vary among individuals based on several factors, including their comfort level with technology and their test-taking strategies and skills.
To excel on the exam, students should prepare, familiarize themselves with the digital format, and practice using online testing platforms.
Yes, the digital SAT is different from the paper SAT. While the content and scoring of both versions are intended to be similar, other things differ, including:
Although both formats of the SAT differ, both exams will test you on the same things.
No, the digital SAT is not harder than the paper SAT. Both versions' content, format, and scoring are designed to be as similar as possible to ensure a consistent level of difficulty. The College Board has prioritized maintaining the test's validity and reliability regardless of the format.
The College Board is making a full transition to digital for the SAT. This means they’ll no longer be administering the paper format of the exam. However, they’ll continue to support students with accommodations that require the paper and pencil test.
As the new digital SAT format becomes a reality, you must adapt and familiarize yourself with the changes to maximize your performance on this important exam. The digital format was made to make the SAT relevant in this new age of technology. It was designed to revolutionize the examination process and be accessible to test-takers.
While the transition may come with its challenges, the benefits of the digital format, such as faster score reporting and a more interactive test-taking experience, shouldn’t be overlooked.
You should take advantage of the available resources and stay updated with the latest information and guidelines provided by the College Board. With proper preparation and a thorough understanding of the new format, you can confidently approach the digital SAT.