As of January 2024, the College Board has successfully transitioned the Digital SAT . This significant shift
revolutionizes how test-takers should prepare for the exam. So, what sets the Digital SAT apart from its traditional counterpart?
Major Change 1: Format
The Digital SAT is now a shorter exam, completed in 2 hours and 14 minutes, as opposed to the traditional 3 hours and 15 minutes for the paper exam. The exam is divided into four modules—two each for Reading and Verbal, and two for Math. Each Reading and Verbal module consists of 27 questions, taking 32 minutes to complete. Each Math module comprises 22 questions, taking 35 minutes to complete.
Crucially, the Digital SAT is an adaptive exam, where your performance in the first set of modules determines the difficulty level of the second set.
For instance, if you excel in the first Reading and Verbal module, you will encounter the advanced module for the second section. Conversely, scoring lower on the first module will result in encountering an easier module for the second section.
Major Change 2: Content + Questions
Unlike the traditional paper SAT, the Digital SAT no longer utilizes long and dense passages for the Reading and Verbal section. Instead, it assesses reading comprehension and grammar skills using short paragraphs for every question. The skills tested are simplified into the following categories: Information and Ideas, Craft and Structure, Expression of Ideas, and Standard English Conventions. The Math section has also been modified. You can now use the calculator for both sections, and the topics covered have been simplified into the following categories: Algebra, Advanced Math, Problem-Solving and Data Analysis, and Geometry and Trigonometry.
How Does the Digital SAT Change Impact Test Takers?
The Digital SAT aims to be more accessible for students, allowing them to focus on demonstrating proficiency rather than enduring a grueling 3-hour exam. In the past, students had to contend not only with the skills tested but also overcome factors like testing stamina, focus, and fatigue. With the Digital
SAT, these concerns are reduced due to the shorter test duration and more straightforward questions.
The biggest impact might be the reduction in anxiety. Students report that the Digital SAT is preferred over the paper exam, not only because it’s shorter but also because the questions are perceived as fairer and more straightforward.
Are There Any Downsides to the Digital SAT?
The primary downside of the Digital SAT is the lack of preparation materials available. Currently, College Board has released only 4 digital practice tests (compared to the 10 practice exams for the paper version) and 4 digital nonadaptive paper tests. Students who are not foundationally strong on topics covered by the Digital SAT may find it challenging to prepare. Another issue relates to the scoring of this test. With
fewer and more straightforward questions, the scoring curve becomes more stringent. Making one mistake on a section could mean losing anywhere between 0-30 points. However, how many points a student loses depends entirely on the type and difficulty level of each question, introducing uncertainty. Given this
uncertainty, students might find the exam easier to complete, but harder to receive a standout score.
So, Should I Take the Digital SAT?
The decision depends on the type of student and test-taker you are. If you struggle with long durations or feel anxious during high-stakes testing, the Digital SAT might be a good option. However, it’s crucial to note that, being a new format, uncertainties exist. There is no guarantee that you will score better on the Digital SAT than on the paper version. Furthermore, performance in practice might differ significantly from the real exam in March.
One thing is clear though: just as you must practice for the paper Digital SAT, targeted practice in content and strategies is also necessary for the digital version. Discover how Digital SAT prepares you for the Digital SAT and sign up today!