Master The Digital SAT: Tips for Success

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In the Spring of 2024, the College Board will be introducing a digital version of the SAT. The upcoming format will bear a strong resemblance to the existing paper-based test, emphasizing Reading and Writing, as well as Math. The questions and scoring system will remain unchanged. The main difference is that it will now be completed on a computer. We’ll tell you what you need to know to prepare for this change and what to expect from the test.

Why is the SAT going Digital?

There are a few reasons why the College Board is transitioning to a digital SAT. First, the test is theoretically increasing accessibility. By transitioning to a digital platform, the SAT will have greater access to the exam. Unlike its traditional counterpart, the new format allows students to take the test at various times and locations. This newfound freedom grants greater convenience and accommodates diverse schedules and preferences.

The digital SAT boasts enhanced measures to safeguard its integrity. Compared to the current paper-and-pencil version, it theoretically should be harder to engage in any form of cheating on a digital test. This ensures a level playing field for all test-takers.

Last but not least, the digital SAT greatly enhances the user experience. Individuals who struggle with reading or writing on paper may discover that the test is significantly more manageable when completed using a computer. For instance, a host of exciting tools are available to test-takers, such as the ability to highlight text, utilize a calculator, and even skip questions to return to them later. We’ll talk more about this later!

Key Differences in the New Digital SAT Format

Completed On a Computer

The biggest change in the new SAT is that it’s digital…which means students are completing the test on a computer rather than with pen and paper. With that, students can now use tools like highlighting text and utilizing a calculator.

Calculator Use

Instead of bringing their own calculators, students now have the advantage of using an on-screen calculator for all math sections. This tool includes basic functions such as addition and subtraction, as well as more advanced features like square roots and exponents. It is crucial for students to allocate time for practicing with the on-screen calculator during SAT preparation in order to become familiar with its functions and minimize any possible mistakes during the test.

Adaptive Sections

The new digital SAT is adaptive. This means that the difficulty of the questions will adjust based on how well the student is doing. Its adaptivity is section-based, rather than question-based, so a student’s overall performance in one section will affect what questions appear in the second section. Each SAT section (Math and Reading/Writing) will be broken into 2 “modules,” and the overall performance on the first module in a section will affect the difficulty level of the second module in that section. If a student is answering more questions correctly within a module, the questions for the next module will become more difficult. If a student is answering questions incorrectly, the questions will become easier. Because it’s section-based adaptive, students are able able to skip around within a module and change their answers.

A Shorter Test

The current paper-based version of the SAT takes three hours to complete, but the new digital format offers students a shorter testing experience. With shorter sections, the digital SAT can now be finished in just two hours. This not only saves valuable time for students but also has the potential to reduce test-related stress. As a result, students can focus more on their performance and achieving their desired scores.

Quicker Turnaround Time

The introduction of the new digital SAT format has significantly sped up the process of score delivery for students compared to the traditional paper-and-pencil test. Instead of enduring a wait of weeks, students can now expect to receive their scores within days. This swifter turnaround time is especially advantageous for students who have strict deadlines to meet for college applications or scholarships. Moreover, receiving scores sooner enables students to gain valuable insights into their performance and identify specific areas that may need improvement before their next attempt at the exam.

Increased Security

Fairness and prevention of cheating are the main focuses of the enhanced security measures incorporated into the new digital SAT format. Prior to taking the exam, students are required to provide identification and have their pictures taken, verifying their identity. The test is carried out on secure devices with encryption, and vigilant supervision is implemented to detect any abnormalities during the test. Real-time monitoring enables the identification of patterns or unusual actions. These comprehensive measures by the College Board guarantee the exam’s integrity and create an equal playing field for all examinees.

Content Changes in the Digital SAT

The SAT assesses slightly different content in each of its sections. However, both the digital SAT and the paper-and-pencil SAT will still utilize the same 1600 scale, and the scores obtained from both versions are equivalent. There will still be 4 sections, 2 of which are Math sections. However, there will no longer be a separate Reading section, and Writing and Language section, which together make up the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) portion of the current test. In total, the digital SAT will have around half as many questions as the paper version.

The Reading and Writing Section

The Reading and Writing section will now incorporate the subjects of Reading, Writing, and Language into a single section. As part of the revised Reading and Writing section, students will encounter numerous shorter texts, each associated with just one question, instead of having multiple questions attached to only a few lengthy passages. This will enable the test to include a wider variety of genres and levels of text difficulty, allowing students to access the necessary information more efficiently. The College Board has also indicated the introduction of new verbal question types; however, specific details will not be disclosed until the summer.

The duration of each Reading and Writing module is 32 minutes, so about an hour for both. Each Reading and Writing section consists of 27 questions; therefore, you can anticipate encountering 27 distinct passages in each section, as there is only one question per passage. Because each passage is said to be much shorter, the time spent reading and comprehending them will be significantly reduced.

The Math Section

The Digital SAT will not have a “no calculator” section, and the testing app will feature a built-in Desmos graphing calculator. Students can still bring in their own approved calculators if they want to. The College Board has also indicated that for math passages, the average length of word problems is somewhat shorter on the digital test. This change helps ensure that all students, regardless of their English language ability, have an even playing field on which to showcase their math skills. Each Math module is 35 minutes, for a total of 70 minutes spent on the Math section.

Tools Featured in the Digital SAT

By familiarizing yourself with these tools and using them effectively, you can improve your chances of success on the digital SAT. Here are some additional details about each of the tools:

  • The Desmos Onscreen Calculator is equipped with an array of functions, including trigonometric functions, logarithms, and statistics. Additionally, the calculator provides the capability to directly graph functions on the screen.
  • The Online Notepad is a simple but effective tool that allows you to take notes and organize your thoughts during the exam. You can use it to jot down important information about the passages, make calculations, and outline your essay responses. Think of it as scratch paper.
  • The Countdown Clock helps you to keep track of the time remaining for each section of the exam. This can help you to pace yourself and avoid spending too much time on any one question.
  • The Mark-for-Review and Strikethrough Tools are two helpful tools that can help you to manage your time and stay organized during the exam. The Mark-for-Review tool allows you to flag questions that you want to revisit later (remember, skipping questions is OK), while the Strikethrough tool allows you to eliminate answer choices that you know are incorrect (process of elimination).
  • The Math Reference Popout provides quick access to essential math formulas and concepts. This can be helpful if you need to brush up on a particular concept or formula.

How to Prepare for the Digital SAT

While students will have the option to use their own laptop or tablet to take the test, they will not be able to do so from home. The SAT will only be conducted at schools and testing centers. Students who need accommodations for testing will still be provided with them.

The best way to prepare for the digital SAT is to practice on a computer. Since you will be using a computer to take the test, you’ll want to get used to reading questions off a screen and learning how to use the variety of tools available. It is important to get familiar with these tools before you take the test so that you can use them effectively. There are many resources available online that can help students with this. For instance, the College Board also offers a free digital SAT practice test.

In addition to practicing with a computer, students should also brush up on their math and reading skills. The digital SAT will cover the same content (more or less) as the current paper-and-pencil SAT, so students should focus on the same areas of study. Similarly, students should utilize the same techniques they would on the pen-and-paper version, like skipping and marking questions they don’t know the answers to and coming back to them later when time permits. This will help you to save time and to focus on the questions that you know you can answer. Process of elimination is another technique that can be particularly helpful on the digital SAT. By eliminating answer choices that are clearly incorrect, you can narrow down your options and increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.

On test day, it is crucial for students to remain calm and composed, especially when taking the digital SAT. Test anxiety can be overwhelming, but taking a few deep breaths and reminding yourself that you are prepared can help alleviate stress. By staying focused and maintaining a relaxed mindset, you can perform at your best and achieve the results you have worked hard for.


The digital SAT is still a year away, but it is already generating a lot of excitement. The transition from a paper-based test to a digital format is expected to bring about substantial changes in the college admissions process. The digital format opens up possibilities for innovative question types and interactive features that can better assess students’ skills and knowledge. By starting early and familiarising yourself with the format of the new exam, you can prepare yourself for success on the digital SAT and get one step closer to your dream school!

Remember, your SAT scores make up only one aspect of your college application checklist. Be sure to pay just as much attention to other important parts of your profile, like your extracurricular activities, grades, and relationships with potential recommenders.