Everyone hold onto your hats! College Board is switching things up again with the SAT. Big time. So we’re here to unravel the updates for you and continue to make sure you’ve got all the info you need to rock your testing day, regardless of any known or unforseen changes.
Beginning spring of 2024 (and spring 2023 for international students, then fall 2023 for the PSAT), the SAT will be completely digital.
Bye-bye No. 2 pencils. So long paper.
Looks like it’s all computers or tablets ahoy.
You’re probably wondering the same thing we were wondering when we heard the news: Does that mean the SAT will be exactly the same but on the computer? Nope.
They are also embracing this revamp as an opportunity to redesign the SAT in several key ways.
But don’t worry.
We’ve got all the details outlined for you below, including:
Changes to how the SAT will be administered
Changes to the SAT format
Changes to the SAT content
Changes to the time allotted for the SAT
How this affects you
How to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have
How Do You Take The Online SAT?
While the tests will continue to be administered at schools and official testing centers - you still won’t be able to take them at home - there are three fundamental shifts you need to be aware of that are occurring in the testing process.
1. The New Digital Testing Application
With this new system, the entire SAT will be given through a digital app.
You’ll be able to take the test on any of the following:
- A school-issued laptop or tablet,
- Your personal laptop or tablet, or
- A laptop or tablet provided by the College Board at the test center.
The test will also be auto-saving in real-time so if the internet crashes or your device runs out of battery, you should be able to pick up right where you left off on your test and not be penalized for technical difficulties.
2. THE BIGGEST CHANGE: the Digital SAT Will Be Adaptable
If you’re familiar with the GRE (an SAT-like test for students who are applying to graduate school) the online SAT format will be similar.
If you’re not familiar with the GRE, the digital SAT will utilize Computerized Adaptive Testing.
This means that the questions you receive are based on your correct/incorrect answers from your previously completed section.
How Does Adaptive Testing Work?
With the new digital SAT, the two subject sections (Reading/Writing and Math) will be divided into two parts that they’re going to call modules.
With the current pencil and paper test, you take all the easy, medium, and hard questions together.
Now, the questions that you receive on the second module will depend on your performance on the first module, so there will be more pressure and difficulty placed on the questions in the first module and less opportunity to prove yourself with additional questions of varying difficulty later.
3. Calculators Will Be Allowed On The Digital SAT Math Section
Instead of the current format where you are allowed a calculator on one math section and take the next math section with no calculator, the digital SAT will allow you to use a calculator on the entire math section.
Furthermore, there will be a graphing calculator built in for you on the test or you can opt to use your own calculator.
How Long Will The Digital SAT Be?
Instead of the current 3 hours total, the online SAT will take about 2 hours.
No longer two math sections, a reading section, and a writing section. The digital SAT will consist of only two sections: the reading/writing and math.
After two modules of the reading/writing section, there will be a short break and then you’ll proceed to two math modules.
In both sections (especially with the new adaptive testing technology), you will also be allotted more time per question than you are currently given.
Quicker Reading and Writing Test
You can expect shorter reading passages and more streamlined questions all around.
The new reading sections will have one question assigned to each instead of the current format with multiple questions per each.
Quicker Math Test
The word problems are being rewritten to be more concise.
How Will The Digital SAT Questions Be Different Than The SAT We Have Now?
The new test will feature reading passages that are more relevant to what you’re studying in school.
For the math section, the word problems look to be more streamlined and straightforward as well.
What Will the Digital SAT Format Look Like?
According to the College Board, the new format in the online app will allow you to:
- Flag questions to come back to them later, like you would do on your paper exam
- Include a graphing calculator for your use on the computer (or you can use your own)
- A countdown clock that you can use or hide while you’re taking the test
- A list of common math formulas for reference in the math section
Want a glimpse? Here’s a sneak peak:
Want more? Here’s everything that’s been released so far.
The College Board is promising to have digital SAT practice resources released this fall for students.
We'll definitely keep you posted.
Will the SAT Score Change?
No, the SAT will still be scored on a 1600 scale.
According to College Board, the test score that you receive on the pencil and paper test will be the equivalent of the score that you would receive on the new digital version.
BONUS NEWS: You will be able to get your score in a matter of days instead of weeks with this move into the digital era.
Don’t know about you, but less wait time sounds great!
Who Does The New Digital SAT Affect?
Whether you’re already neck-deep in your standardized testing prep or you’ve barely given it a second thought before today, the immediate implications are the same.
Keep (or start) studying for the “old” pencil/paper SAT.
Nothing new is happening in 2022, so you have time to figure out your next best steps.
Get as much prep done as possible and try to get these standardized tests out of the way as quickly as you can if you don’t want to be affected by these changes.
When Will the New Digital SAT Start?
At this time, there are no plans for a transitional overlap. Once digital starts, the papers and pencils will be completely phased out (unless you have special testing needs - see below).
First, international test centers will begin digital tests for all students in March 2023. The College Board reports that this will allow them to add two more test dates to the current five test dates offered.
Then in the Fall of 2023, all PSAT-related assessments will be digital. SAT School Day and SAT weekend sessions offered in the US will remain paper and pencil.
Finally, all students will be taking digital tests for the full SAT Suite of Assessments in Spring 2024.
What About Students Who Require Accommodations?
Although there aren’t many details yet, the College Board has reported that they will continue to support students who require accommodations and will offer a paper and pencil test accordingly.
Curious About the New Digital PSAT Too?
The PSAT will be moved to this new digital format starting the Fall of 2023 PSAT.
Advice for the Class of 2024 and the Class of 2025
This isn’t the first time College Board has shaken things up and it probably won’t be the last.
If you’re part of the Class of 2025, you will be the first domestic class to experience the new digital SAT.
If you’re part of the Class of 2024 and you’re international, you’ll be the first class to experience the new digital SAT.
Here’s our advice:
There are two paths that you have open to you.
- The first is to secure your strong SAT score ASAP before things change and go through the bumpy rigamarole of developing a new system.
(NOTE: If you’re looking to qualify for National Merit through the PSAT, that means securing your score in fall 2022).
- The second path is to avoid the new digital SAT and take the tried and true ACT instead.
Path 1: Secure Your Strong Score on the Current SAT
Push up your testing timeline.
Take the SAT now to avoid the digital SAT and secure your top score with the current, tried and true SAT.
This is a good idea if you:
- Have completed the math classes that you need to be successful on the SAT
- Feel as though you’re ready to dedicate about 12 weeks to a testing plan
- Want to start your test plan early and secure that strong score before junior year
- Don’t wait to organize your perfect testing plan.
These changes have put a new timer on all of us.
If you wanna jump in but don’t have a lot of extra study time available, we’ve got you covered with our SAT Quick Prep that can get you ready in as little as four hours.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to the current SAT that will teach you everything academically the test will cover, including strategies, check out our comprehensive SAT package here.
If you’re planning to try and qualify for National Merit Scholars through the PSAT and if you’re planning on taking the current SAT to secure that strong score, make sure you:
- Keep an eye on our website. College Board is going to release practice materials this fall to help you prepare for this new format and we’ll make sure you have access to it as soon as it’s available.
- Sign up for our newsletter as we’ll be releasing updates to help you prepare
- Begin taking practice tests early to learn this new adaptable format
Path 2: Avoid the Digital SAT and Prepare for the ACT Instead
Since this new digital SAT will take time to iron out as well as provide any new study materials to students, the alternate path is to avoid the digital SAT completely and opt for the ACT instead.
Why Take The ACT Instead Of The SAT? Here are a few reasons:
- The ACT is more reliable right now. Like when the SAT changed in 2016, this new digital format is untested and there will continue to be adjustments that no one can plan for in advance.
- The ACT will be easier to prepare for. Although SAT digital practice tests will be released in the Fall of 2022, it will take time to develop good additional testing materials to allow students to prepare.
- The ACT is a known entity for colleges. Although the ACT was planning on also going digital, the digital test will not be adaptive and will be more like the paper ACT. Even if a college is test-optional, they are likely to put more stock in what they know until they get a good handle on the new SAT format and content.
- The ACT is a safer bet. No one wants to be a guinea pig while trying to get a rocking score to report to colleges (especially for merit scholarships that can take thousands off your tuition bill). Choose the test that makes this possibility more likely, rather than the test that forces you to be part of the new system.
- CATs are harder tests. For all that College Board has told us about the digital SAT, one thing that the jury is still out on is the technology they’re using for the digital testing app. Computerized Adaptive Testing (which is what this online version of the SAT is) has a reputation for being a much more difficult way to test. Maybe it won’t be. Maybe it’ll be as “student-friendly” as they are advertising. But do you really want to risk it?
Taking the ACT instead would be a good idea if you’re a student who:
- Has already finished Algebra 2 or who is taking Algebra 2 their junior year. For both the SAT and ACT, the majority of the concepts covered on the exam come from Algebra 1 and 2. It is recommended that students have finished at least the first semester if not the whole year of Algebra 2 before taking the test.
- Aren’t comfortable starting your testing plan early and would prefer more time to prepare for the traditional paper approach to the exam.
Whichever way you decide, you will succeed most if you have a solid testing plan in place.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to the ACT that will get you ready to score big, we have both quick and comprehensive courses available here.
We know this is a lot of brand new information to take in.
We’re here to help you process and use it to your best advantage.
Please reach out to us if you have any questions!