Everyone’s favorite standardized test, the SAT, is changing for the first time in over 6 years. In this article, I will discuss everything you need to know about the new Digital SAT as well as some details that have not been clarified.
I’m going to go into all of the nitty-gritty details, but feel free to use the links below to jump to specific sections.
College Board’s Digital SAT Announcement Video
How is the SAT Changing?
- No more paper tests. The new SAT test will be completely digital.
- The test will be shorter (only 2 hours long not including a break).
- There will only be two sections (‘Reading & Writing’ and ‘Math’).
- The verbal passages are shorter.
- Calculator allowed on all math questions and shorter word problems.
- The Digital SAT is adaptive.
- Results will be available in a matter of days.
- There will be more opportunities to take the test.
Details About the Digital Format
The Digital SAT, as the name implies, will be completely digital. No more paper tests. No more #2 pencils. No more bubbling in answers on a scantron. Welcome to the future! This comes with a number of benefits and some downsides. Overall, I think the move to a digital format will be welcomed by students, but it will require some getting used to.
- Countdown clock on screen (this will help a ton with timing/pacing)
- Easy way to flag questions for later review
- Built-in graphing calculator (great if you don’t own one)
- You are welcome to use your own if you prefer
- The built-in graphing calculator looks like an implementation of Desmos
- Easy access to a math formula sheet for reference
- No more worrying about forgetting pencils or having to sharpen them
- No more spending time bubbling in answers on a separate answer sheet
- 2 hours of continuous staring at a screen might strain your eyes
- Can’t physically mark up reading/English passages as you read
- Some students have more trouble with reading comprehension when reading digital passages
Here’s a link to Digital SAT Suite: Resources that has a brief slideshow that gives a glimpse of what the digital test will look like.
Length of Digital SAT
In addition to the switch to a digital format, College Board is taking the opportunity to change other aspects of the SAT. Instead of 3 hours plus 2 breaks, the SAT will now only be 2 hours long (not including the single break in between the verbal and math sections). The test will be a little less of a marathon, and stamina will play less of a role than it currently does. This should be a big help to students who have trouble focusing for such a long time.
Digital SAT Sections
From what’s been announced so far, it seems that the content and types of questions will remain relatively the same, but they are modifying how the sections are laid out. Currently, there are four sections: reading, writing & language, math no calculator, and math calculator. The new SAT combines the verbal sections into a single “Reading & Writing” section and the two math sections into a single math section. It will still be scored on the 1600 scale (800 Reading & Writing, 800 Math).
Reading & Writing (60 minutes)
Break (10 minutes)
Math (60 minutes)
Reading & Writing Section
The main change to the verbal sections seems to be a move to much shorter passages. The current SAT reading passages are 500-750 words long and are followed by 10-11 questions each. In multiple places, College Board is claiming that “students will see many shorter texts, each tied to just one question”. I find it odd that they’d move entirely to one-question passages, but I haven’t found any evidence to the contrary.
Students will be able to use a calculator for the entire math section. Additionally, College Board is making an effort to streamline their math word problems and promises, “questions in context (word problems) will be more concise than those on the current test”.
The Digital SAT will use adaptive testing which means students will receive different questions based on how they answer the beginning questions of each section. Students are served up a unique set of questions based on how many and which questions they answer correctly in the first “module”. This serves a number of purposes including making it harder to cheat (since students are not given the same questions in the same order) and getting an accurate score with fewer questions. Many other digital tests (GRE, NCLEX, etc.) already use adaptive testing.
Rather than the current 2+ weeks, the digital format will allow students to receive their scores in a matter of days. No more agonizing wait!
More Opportunities to Take the SAT
The current SAT is offered 7 times a year: 3 times during the spring semester, 1 time in the summer, and 3 times during the fall semester. Students cannot take the test from home and still have to go to a test center or school, but the Digital SAT will provide more flexibility on when they can take it. The exact details aren’t clear, but College Board says, “states, districts, and schools will have more options for when, where, and how often they administer the SAT—rather than adhering to a fixed schedule”.
Timeline of Changes
Spring 2023: First International Digital SAT
Fall 2023: First Digital PSAT
Spring 2024: First US Digital SAT
Current high school freshman (2021-2022 school year) will be the first to take the Digital PSAT during the fall semester of their junior year. They will also be the same group who have the first opportunity to take the Digital SAT in 2024.
Are the Changes Good or Bad?
Overall, I think the Digital SAT will be an improvement upon the current SAT. There are still some unknowns that I will detail below, but, based on what I’ve read, I think the test is more student-friendly (easier) and designed to be less intimidating. With a clear trend towards test-optional college applications, College Board is doing everything they can to stay relevant. Universities could easily reverse course once they run into trouble, but for now standardized tests are no longer a given. That said, many students will need a good Digital SAT score to make their application competitive. The Digital SAT will also make cheating harder, which is good news for students who play by the rules.
- How much quality practice material will they release before the first Digital PSAT & SAT?
- Will there be new content covered?
- Will there be new types of questions?
- Will they allow scratch paper for the math section?
^I’m assuming yes, but this has not been answered.
- Digital SAT Official Announcement
- Digital SAT Suite: Frequently Asked Questions
- Digital SAT Main Homepage
We will have to wait and see as College Board unveils more information, but I suspect the content of the Digital SAT will be quite similar to the current test. I will post an update as soon as official prep materials are available (sometime in fall 2022). If I missed anything or got anything wrong, please comment below to let me know.