Everything You Need to Know About the New Digital SAT

For more than a century, the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) has been an important part of college admissions in the United States. Traditionally, it is a paper exam. However, when the pandemic forced schools to go virtual, the College Board, which administers the SAT, thought of changing the test. They’ve since announced an innovative solution: the digital SAT (goodbye scantrons!!). Keep reading to learn all about the new test format.

Is the digital SAT replacing the regular SAT?

The College Board is going fully digital, which means they won’t be providing paper-and-pencil versions of the SAT tests anymore once the digital version is launched. However, they’ll still provide the option of paper and pencil tests for students who need special accommodations. If you are trying to decide whether you want to take the SAT or ACT, you can read about some general differences between the two (outside of the digital element) and more tips about which you should take before deciding.

Will the digital SAT be more difficult?

The short answer is no. The digital SAT is not intended to be more difficult than the traditional format, nor is it meant to be easier.

Nonetheless, several aspects of the digital SAT may be more user-friendly for students. For example, the ease of access and comfort of taking the exam digitally may help alleviate some of the stress and strain bound with the SAT. Another benefit is that your scores are released faster.

Ultimately, while the digital SAT may provide certain advantages, the exam’s content, and rigor will remain the same.

Similarities

Overall, the new test still has the same goal of assessing a student’s knowledge, skills, and college readiness. It will feature similar content as the original exam.

The digital SAT will have similar content as the original paper SAT.
Credit: The College Board

In terms of scoring, the digital SAT will also still be scored on the same 1600 scale. Lastly, a proctor will be present when the digital SAT is administered in a school or testing center, just like before.

Differences

While the exam will have similar content and similar goals in terms of testing, the College Board has made some significant changes. Most of the changes are related to how the test is structured in the new “adaptive” model.

Changes to the format and questions

First and foremost, the new exam will be shorter. Right now, the test lasts three hours. The digital SAT will cut an hour off that time and be only two hours!

Additionally, it will be split into two parts: Reading/Language & Writing and Math, with multiple modules in each section. There will be a short break in between those parts.

Another significant change is that it will use an ‘adaptive’ model. This means it’ll adjust the difficulty level on subsequent sections based on how well you do on the first set of questions. So if you ace it, the next stage will be more challenging, and if you struggle, they’ll give you easier questions. It sounds like this will be unfair between different test takers. However, it is backed by research and will not cause any unfair advantages or disadvantages among test takers. The College Board explains the adaptive model in a brief about the digital SAT if you would like to read more about it.

Changes to score reporting

The new digital SAT exam is going to be a game-changer for students! Firstly, you’ll receive your score results much quicker than the 2-6 week wait in the past. With the new digital format, you’ll receive your scores in just a matter of days after taking the test.

This also allows for more flexibility. You’ll have the bandwidth to take the SAT later in the academic year if needed and still have plenty of time to meet critical application deadlines. Trust me; this is exciting news for anyone planning to take the SAT!

Who can take the digital SAT?

All students will take the SAT in the new digital format in the future (with exceptions for students with accommodations). However, it isn’t launching for students in the United States until 2024. The digital PSAT, on the other hand, will be available earlier, in fall 2023.

Also, if you’re an international student, you can already take the digital SAT. The College Board launched the new format for international students in March 2023!

According to the College Board, those who participated in the exam had a positive experience. Most high school students who took the online test preferred it over the traditional method, claiming it was less stressful.

What is the “Verbal section” on the digital SAT?

It’s a misleading name since you’re not speaking during the test! The Verbal section of the SAT is actually the name for the Reading section and Writing & Language section. Overall, there are 96 questions separated into those two individual parts.

This section is all about testing your reading skills – both how well you comprehend information and how you use that information. For example, you might have to answer questions about individual passages or compare and contrast them.

Some questions will even ask you to interpret graphs or figure out the meaning of words based on the context. So basically, they’re going to throw a bunch of reading content at you and see how well you handle it.

How much does the new version cost?

The digital SAT registration fee will remain at $60. You’ll also continue to receive a fee waiver if you’re eligible.

Fee waivers

You can get an SAT fee waiver if you’re an 11th or 12th-grade student in the US and come from a low-income background. In addition, if you’re a US citizen who lives outside the country, you may also qualify for the fee waiver.

Other potential qualifications include the following:

  • You are currently enrolled in or eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • Your family’s yearly income falls within the Income Eligibility Guidelines established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service
  • You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program designed to assist students from low-income families, such as TRIO programs like Upward Bound
  • Your family receives public assistance
  • You are houseless, living in federally subsidized public housing or staying in a foster home
  • You are a ward of the state or an orphan

How should you prepare for the digital SAT?

Take practice tests

Preparation for the digital SAT requires commitment and hard work. Taking full-length practice tests and analyzing your missteps is an efficient strategy to enhance your test performance. But remember that everyone’s learning style and study habits are unique, so you may need to tweak your plan to find what works best for you.

The College Board released several practice test options. Take multiple practice tests in order to feel comfortable with the digital SAT’s features like the equation reference page, timer, etc.

Another tip is that you should learn how to pace yourself throughout the digital SAT since time management is essential to test-taking. Simulated tests will help you understand how long each part takes and how to plan your time accordingly.

Use a tutor

Additionally, personalized one-on-one tutoring for this exam can help you get the score you’re aiming for. Check out some great tutoring options in Lessonpal’s community of online SAT tutors to get started.

The big picture

Overall, while the digital SAT introduces new challenges and considerations for test takers, it also allows for greater accessibility and convenience.

Study and prepare as best you can so you can confidently approach the digital SAT and maximize your chances of success. Lessonpal’s online SAT tutors are always ready to help you work towards your goals! Message a tutor or easily book a lesson to get started.

Lastly, you can stay up to date with the College Board’s latest information about the digital SAT in order to get updates on the 2024 test dates.

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