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The New Digital SAT: What to Expect

High school students prepare to take the digital SAT on school computers

By Carl R., IvyWise Master Tutor 

Now that the new SAT will be making its U.S. debut in early 2024, and it’s important for current high school students who will be taking the SAT in 2024 and beyond to understand what’s changing and how that affects their test prep strategy.  

It’s Completely Digital 

As the name suggests, the digital SAT will be completely administered online. Instead of bubbling in Scantron sheets, you will use the Bluebook app to read and answer questions. You are permitted to use a school device or your own laptop or tablet to take the official test, but cellphones are not allowed. College Board has indicated that they will provide test takers with devices if necessary. It is important to note that access to an outlet for charging is not guaranteed unless you have approved accommodations. If you are using your own device, you are responsible for making sure it is charged beforehand and will also need to have the Bluebook app installed and up-to-date. 

Your score will be available on the College Board website two to three weeks after your testing date. Any schools you indicated when you registered for the test will receive your score within 10 days after you do. If you want to send your SAT score to any additional schools, it will take one to three weeks. 

The Test Is Adaptive  

Each section (Verbal and Math) will be given in two successive modules. Module 2 questions will be based on the student’s performance on Module 1. In other words, if you do well on Module 1, you will get a harder version of Module 2. But don’t be deterred! An elite score is only possible when you complete the advanced version!   

It’s Shorter 

The first change worth noting is that the digital SAT will be much shorter at two hours and 14 minutes: 64 minutes for Verbal and 70 minutes for Math. Previously, it was a three-hour test. You may feel relieved, but since there are fewer questions, each question DOES matter a lot more!   

The Verbal Section Has Been Updated 

The reading and writing modules within the Verbal section are now combined. The reading comprehension questions are now interspersed with grammar, punctuation, and word choice questions. Despite these changes, the digital SAT will continue to test the same basic reading and writing skills.    

Perhaps the starkest difference is in the reading comprehension questions. The SAT will no longer present long passages with 10-11 corresponding questions. Instead, you will be given a short passage (about a 3-4 sentence paragraph) with one corresponding question. In addition to prose, you will occasionally be given a poetic passage or a bullet point-style outline. Also, while question types are similar, we will no longer see multi-step evidence questions.   

The writing and language questions feature a very subtle difference. While the current SAT offers “NO CHANGE” as a first option to most questions, this is no longer the case in the new, digital SAT. Instead of underlining text and suggesting a change, the new SAT leaves words blank, and you must fill them in. 

While this seems insignificant, it changes the strategy in a pretty big way. Often, we are taught to spot a problem and correct it. With a blank space, this is no longer an option. As a simple strategy, I am encouraging students to “plug in” option A automatically in order to recreate the old style of question and more easily recognize problems if they exist.   

The Math Section Has Changed 

The Math section’s most obvious change is the removal of the non-calculator section. Instead of calculator and non-calculator portions, Math is now divided into two modules like the Verbal section and calculators will be permitted for all questions. A Desmos Calculator and reference sheet will even be available in the testing app itself. Another change involves the placement of the free-response questions. These questions were at the end in the classic version, but they are interspersed throughout both math modules in the digital version.   

As far as concepts go, there is nothing too different: functions (linear, quadratic, rational, and exponential), plane and coordinate geometry, some statistics and probability, and a smattering of degree and radian trigonometry. However, the last few questions in the Math section tend to take some students by surprise, as they can be very difficult!  

Test Prep Has Changed 

As you might imagine, SAT test prep has also changed. Students have access to preview tools and four practice SAT exams via the Bluebook app, which requires a College Board account. The preview tools are a great way to get a feel for the test format and types of questions you will encounter, as they look like the real test.  

While the official practice exams are timed and scored like the real test, they are also limited in number. You should not use these for idle study but save them for diagnostic purposes or for working with a tutor. Only take them when you are fully prepared to give them the time and energy you would give the real thing. Just like the official test, you will have to log into your College Board account in order to see your score. From there, you can see each question, whether you answered correctly or not, and have the option to view an explanation of the correct answer. 

So, can you use test prep resources for the current SAT? Yes! The question format will be different on the digital SAT, but you are still tested on the same concepts and skills. You can also find supplementary resources to prepare you specifically for the new SAT. Check out Khan Academy, Test Innovators, and the College Board’s Linear Tests. 

What Stays the Same 

All these changes may seem scary and overwhelming, but College Board has given us some tools to recreate some of the tricks test takers often employ in the paper version. You may not be able to write on a test booklet, but you can highlight important passages in the questions and cross out answers you know to be incorrect. There is also a tool that allows you to mark questions to come back to for review and a prompt to check your work at the end of each section.      

Of course, the ACT is dependable and has yet to announce any changes coming up. But with the new SAT’s convenience (both in accessibility and time), I suspect it will catch on very quickly with today’s college-bound high schoolers.

Major testing changes can greatly impact college prep plans, especially when new test prep materials are limited in availability. At IvyWise, we’re already working with students to help them determine how the new SAT will affect their test prep timelines, including guidance on whether to take the ACT or new SAT next year. Learn more about IvyWise’s test prep and tutoring services that can help you feel more confident and prepared going into the SAT.   

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