Are you a parent who wants more information about the digital SAT? Are you curious about taking the digital SAT and want to know what to expect? You have come to the right place if you answer yes to either of these questions.
This digital SAT guide will help you understand when the SAT expects to move to digital format, how the exam is structured, and even what to expect in the digital SAT vs. the paper SAT. In addition, you will also find several recourses to help you prepare for the exam.
If this sounds like information you’d be interested in, all you have to do to find this information and so much more is to keep reading.
When is the SAT Going Digital?
Potential college students worldwide are likely jumping for joy at the thought of the SAT going digital. If the COVID pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we have to be flexible and have multiple options for doing things. Unfortunately, that was not the case previously with the SAT. Instead, schools around the world were forced to make the SAT optional for students whose testing periods may have been negatively affected by COVID-19. Therefore, having a digital SAT would be a game-changer.
The SAT began its transition to digital in March of 2023
How is the New Digital SAT Compared to the Paper Version?
You may be curious how much the SAT will change and what going digital means for the exam. No, it won’t be available on your smartphone, and you can’t purchase an add-on on an app to get access. Some things about the exam will remain the same. However, the Digital SAT format is not being implemented without some changes.
If you or your child needs testing accommodations for the SAT, the format will not change. It will remain on paper and pencil. All other students will now take the exam in one of four methods: desktop, laptop, iPad, or tablet. In addition, Chromebooks will all support administering the exam. To take the exam, students will be instructed to download an application before test day. This application will be used to administer the test.
One of the most notable changes is the time length. Not only does the length of the exam change, but the time needed to prepare for the exam will also shorten. The digital SAT time duration has been shortened from roughly 3 hours to 2 hours. This is due to changes in the length of content. Reading passages in the Reading and Writing exam will be shorter.
Going to a digital format shortens test administration. Teachers no longer need to spend extra time passing out course materials or ensuring students are using the right pencils. There will be no more wondering if bubbles are filled in correctly. Test day preparation activities can also be done in advance, shortening the overall testing experience.
Can I Take the Exam at Home?
A lot of people think that going digital means that you can take the test at any time and in any place. However, that is not something this new format will allow you to do. Much like in previous years, students will be able to take the exam at a testing center or their home school. However, the reason behind the digital transition is to increase flexibility. Schools would now have a wider range of options for administration.
No More Cheating
With this new exam format, cheating will be virtually a thing of the past. Students are all given unique exams. This makes sharing answers nearly impossible. This is a step up from the current method that would result in the canceling of an entire group of students’ scores if a test form is found to be compromised.
Tools to Use on the Exam
As the SAT format has changed, several tools are available for students to use on the exam. The list below will help you understand how to use the digital SAT format better. Different tools will be available to you depending on what test you are taking or the type of question you are answering.
- Unlike previous years of taking the SAT, the math exam will now allow students to utilize a calculator on the full exam. In turn, students will be able to use an approved graphing calculator or utilize the on-screen graphing calculator that is built into the SAT application.
- In addition to having the on-screen calculator, students will have the ability to leverage a reference sheet. This sheet will be equipped with common math formulas for use on the exam.
- The question navigator allows you to review module questions quickly and easily navigate to flagged questions.
- Don’t worry; you will not need to keep time during your exam. The exam application has it covered. All students will see a countdown clock on their testing screen screen. This clock will let you know how much time you have left in a given module. Students have the option to show and hide the clock as needed. It will also send an alert when you have 5 minutes remaining in the exam.
- Zoom is available for all students to utilize to make text bigger or smaller as needed.
- If you are someone who likes to go back and review material you are not sure about, you now have the option to flag a question for review. This allows you to return to it later. This can be extremely helpful when running out of time, and you want to finish the questions you are sure about first.
- Lastly, if you aren’t sure about something and want to make a note within the text, annotation will allow you to do that. Students have the ability to highlight any part of a question, write a note about it, and come back to it later.
What Kind of Device Do I Need?
With all of the changes, you may be wondering what kind of device you need and what the specifications are for running the application. This section will break down just that. All students will have the option to take the exam in digital SAT format. The exam can be taken on a Mac or Windows computer or a school-issued Chromebook. It can also be taken surprisingly on an iPad.
Your device will need to be able to run on battery power for at least 4 hours. However, you are encouraged to bring your device’s power supply, though access to power outlets may be limited. External mice are permitted for use with all devices.
Device Specifications provided by College Board
- Operating System: MacOS 11.4 or later
- 150 MB of available disk space for one exam, plus an additional 50 MB for each additional exam
- Operating System: Windows 10 or later
- 250 MB of available disk space for one exam, plus an additional 50 MB for each additional exam
Other Devices Permitted
- Operating System: iPadOS 14–16 or 17.1.
- Testing not recommended on iPadOs 17.0.0–17.0.3
- External keyboards are permitted for use with iPads
- External keyboards are permitted for use with Windows tablets.
School Issued Chromebooks
- Operating System: Chrome OS 114 or higher is recommended
- DO NOT use any OS below Chrome OS 102
- 150 MB of available disk space for one exam, plus an additional 50 MB for each additional exam
Based on everything outlined, it may seem like everything about the exam is changing, but that is not true. Some components of the SAT will remain the same. Many people may be envisioning a world where they can take the SAT from their living room while eating a bowl of cereal. However, we are still a long way from that reality. Where you can take the exam is not changing. There will still be testing centers and schools which you will choose between when registering.
The content you are tested on also won’t be changing. Though your content will adapt based on how you answered the module questions, all students will be tested on the same core skills and information as the physical exam. Another important area that will not be changing is scoring. Tests will utilize the same grading scales for the SAT as previously outlined by the College Board. Therefore, students who took the paper exam will not have a disadvantage compared to their peers. Though the SAT will be going digital, student accommodation will still be accepted and made.
The digital SAT format will still provide accommodations for students as needed. Some documented accommodations are shown below:
- Students who need additional time will do so on the digital exam. Students may also receive extra time on one exam and not the other. The time will be adjusted accordingly.
- Students who require a braille accommodation will utilize the Raised Line drawing supplement, braille writing software, and/or a screen reader. Students who are unable to use these resources and take the exam must reach out to the College Board for paper accommodation.
- All accommodations will utilize the digital SAT format unless unable. All students who are unable to do so will need to contact customer service for further support.
How is Digital SAT Structured?
For the Digital SAT, it is split into two sections. These sections include Reading, writing, and mathematics. Each of these two sections includes two modules, meaning students will need to take a total of 4 modules to complete the SAT.
Students are given 64 minutes for the Reading & Writing Section, which is split into two 32-minute sessions. Students will answer 54 questions in total for this section. Students will be given a 10-minute break between the first two and the last two sections. The Reading & Writing section will include shortened reading passages, 25 to 150 words, accompanied by one multiple-choice question.
For the Mathematics portion of the exam, students are given 70 minutes. This section also has two modules, which will be divided into two 35-minute tests with a total of 44 questions. Students are allowed to use scratch paper for their work as needed. Students will have no penalty for guessing and should not leave any responses blank.
On the exam’s math section, 75% of the questions will be multiple choice, and the remainder will be free answers. The college board refers to these as Student Produced Response questions. These questions can have multiple answers and are aimed at showing your ability to solve problems.
The SAT is now more adaptative. This means that the first module of each section includes questions that can be considered easy, medium, and hard. The section session will adapt based on how you performed on the questions within the first module, meaning it could either be more or less difficult.
How is Digital SAT Scored?
Since you have taken two exams, you will receive two exam scores and a total score. Your total score will be the summation of your scores on Reading and Math, with a possible score ranging from 400 to 1600. Single-section scores can range from 200-800.
The following information will be included in your score report:
- Total Score
- Reading & Writing Score
- Math Score
- Score Comparisons for the student’s state, school, and district
- Percentile Rankings against students in the given student’s state, school, and district
- Benchmark progress
- College prep resources
- SAT Practice material
- Information on how to improve your SAT score
This information should largely match what is currently being offered. However, one major change to scoring is the length of time it takes to deliver scores. Traditionally, it would take weeks for students to receive scores. Students will now have their results within a few days.
How to Take the New Digital SAT: Digital SAT Timeline
In March of this year, the digital transition began with its international students. This change allows international students to align with the United States testing schedule. However, the full SAT will not move to all digital until Spring 2024. In the meantime, paper tests will be utilized for SAT School Day and SAT weekend.
If you are an international student in the class of 2024, you will be the first set of students to take the Digital SAT. Students in the United States will need to wait a bit longer; the class of 2025 will be the first to take the digital SAT.
The first digital SAT date for international and U.S. students will be March 9, 2024. Students looking to sit for this exam must be registered no later than February 23, 2024.
Prior to Test Day
Prior to test day, you need to make sure you have a compatible device to test with, have requested a loaner device from the College Board, or will be provided one by the school. In addition to getting a device, you also need to have the Bluebook application installed and ready to go on test day. Students will need to have completed this outside of their scheduled test day. Students will also have access to an admission ticket, which they will need to bring with them on test day.
As a student, test day will be easy. Going digital means the exam administration will be done right from your school for some students. Teachers will administer the digital exam, and all preparation materials for students and teachers will be online. Otherwise, you will be expected to test at a testing center.
On test day, you can expect to arrive at least 30 minutes before your test is scheduled to start. This will allow you time to check in and get settled. The admission ticket you are required to have will provide the address and expected arrival time for the test day. You will not be allowed to enter the testing room after testing has begun, and the testing center is not liable for any additional fees accrued as a result of your delay.
Once inside the testing center, the testing staff will assign students a seat. All test takers should expect to be tested by noon. All devices must be fully charged and able to last the testing length. Students are encouraged to bring their device chargers. However, testing centers cannot guarantee power outlets will be available for all students.
How to Prepare and Study for the Digital SAT: 3 Tips
Though the format has changed, there are still several things that you will need to do to prepare for the exam. This list will help you prepare for the exam and understand the vital tasks that you will need to perform before test day.
Download and Review the Testing Application
If you are unsure about the digital exam and want more hands-on experience with the application, students are able to download the Bluebook application prior to test day. Please spend some time getting to know the application to ensure you are familiar with it and that it works well on your computer.
Download Your Admission Ticket
Your admission ticket is mandatory to get into testing on exam day. To receive your admission ticket, students will need to complete the exam application. This is available five days in advance of your test date and must be completed to enter the exam. This ticket will include the address and time of arrival for your specified test date.
Register for a Loaner Computer
If you need to borrow a computer from the college board, you will need to request a loaner at least 30 days before your test day after registering for the exam. Students must select the “Request a device” option and await approval. Requesting a device does not guarantee that you will be granted one. If you are approved for a device, you will receive access to the device on test day. Students approved for a loaner device must arrive early and complete their pre-exam materials to receive their admission ticket. If the College Board is unable to accommodate the selected test date, the student can select a new one or find another device to take the exam with.
3 Helpful Practice Resources for the Digital SAT
The College Board has not only provided information on the new exam format but has also equipped students with resources that they recommend for the new format. These resources are included in the list and other helpful resources for taking the digital exam.
Bluebook Testing Application
The testing application that you will use on the day of your official exam is also available right now for practice. Once downloaded, within the application, students will find practice tests to help them prepare not only for the material on the exam but also for the format.
Official SAT Prep vis Kahn Academy
Students taking the SAT receive free access to the Kahn Academy. This online resource provides students with questions similar to those they will find on the digital SAT. In addition, students will also receive access to skill and knowledge-building resources and videos.
The Official Digital SAT Study Guide by the College Board
This is the ultimate guide to the digital SAT as it comes straight from the source. The guide comes equipped with four practice tests and question drills for the topics to be covered on the SAT exam. It’s important to remember that they will not be adaptive when utilizing tests from a physical resource or free online exams.
Wrapping Things Up: The Ultimate Guide to Digital SAT
The SAT transitioning to a digital format is a major transformation. It will provide the flexibility of allowing testing in multiple locations and through several more methods than previously offered. Beginning in March 2024, the SAT will be offered digitally, internationally, and domestically. Though accommodations can be made if needed, most accommodations will be performed on the digital exam.
You may be wondering, “Is the digital SAT easier?” The answer is no. Scoring will not change; a 1500 score would be the same on the digital exam as in the paper format. However, the digital exam will now be adaptive and offer difficult questions based on how you have answered previous questions.