The Ultimate Guide to the New Digital SAT Format

For years, students have taken the SAT in a paper-and-pencil format. However, beginning in 2023, the SAT will transition to a digital format. This new digital format will include many changes that students should be aware of before they take the exam. Here is the ultimate guide to the new digital SAT format.

What is the Digital SAT Format?

The digital SAT format will be administered on a computer, rather than on paper. Students will use a keyboard and mouse to navigate through the exam, rather than filling in bubbles on a scantron. The format of the test will be the same as the paper test, but it will be delivered digitally.

What Are the Benefits of the Digital SAT Format?

One of the biggest benefits of the digital SAT format is the ability to get scores faster. Instead of waiting several weeks for paper scores to be mailed, students who take the digital SAT can expect to receive their scores within a week. Additionally, the digital format allows for more flexibility in the exam administration, such as the ability to easily highlight and erase text, and use a calculator on all math sections.

What Are the Differences Between the Digital and Paper SAT Formats?

There are several key differences between the digital and paper SAT formats. For example, on the digital exam, students will have access to an on-screen calculator for every math section, rather than just one section on the paper exam. Additionally, the digital exam allows students to flag questions they want to come back to, and to easily move back and forth between questions. However, there are some formatting differences that students should be aware of, such as the reading passages being presented in a single column on the digital exam, as opposed to the two columns on the paper exam.

How to Prepare for the Digital SAT Format?

To prepare for the digital SAT format, students can take advantage of free online resources provided by the College Board, such as digital practice tests and interactive tools. Additionally, some SAT prep courses may offer digital practice exams and simulated test-taking environments to help students get comfortable with the new format. It's also important to make sure that you are familiar with using a keyboard and mouse to navigate through the exam.

What to Expect on Test Day?

On test day, students will need to bring a photo ID and their registration ticket to the testing center. The testing center will provide a computer, mouse, keyboard, and headphones for the exam. Students should also bring a calculator that is approved by the College Board for use on the exam. It's important to arrive at the testing center early and to be well-rested and well-fed before the exam.

The new digital SAT format brings many changes to the exam, including faster score delivery, more flexibility in exam administration, and differences in formatting. By understanding the differences between the digital and paper formats, preparing with online resources, and arriving at the testing center well-prepared, students can be successful on the new digital SAT format.

Key Differences in the New Digital SAT Format

The change from the traditional paper-and-pencil format to a digital format has significant implications for test-takers, so it is essential to understand the key differences in the new digital SAT format.

• Digital vs. Paper-and-Pencil Format

The most significant difference between the new digital SAT format and the traditional paper-and-pencil format is the mode of delivery. In the new digital format, the test is administered on a computer. This means that students will no longer be required to fill in answer bubbles with a pencil, but instead will select their answers using a mouse and keyboard.

• Test Length

The new digital SAT format is slightly shorter than the paper-and-pencil format. The new test consists of 154 questions, while the old test consisted of 154 questions plus an optional essay. This means that test-takers will have slightly less time to answer each question.

• Question Types

The types of questions on the new digital SAT format are similar to those on the paper-and-pencil format, but there are some differences. For example, the new format includes more graphics and multimedia elements, such as videos and animations, in some of the questions. Additionally, the math section includes more questions that require students to analyze data in real-world contexts.

• Section Order

The order of the sections on the new digital SAT format is also different from the paper-and-pencil format. In the new format, the Reading and Writing and Language sections are presented together in a single section, and the Math section is presented separately. This means that test-takers will need to shift gears between different subject areas.

• Navigation

Navigation on the new digital SAT format is different from the paper-and-pencil format. Test-takers can move back and forth between questions within a section, and they can also skip questions and return to them later. However, they cannot go back to previous sections or questions once they have moved on.

The new digital SAT format represents a significant change from the traditional paper-and-pencil format. Test-takers will need to be prepared for the differences in test length, question types, section order, and navigation. By understanding these key differences, students can prepare themselves to perform at their best on the new digital SAT format.

The Content and Timing of the Digital SAT

There are also some key differences in the content and timing of the digital SAT that students should be aware of.

• Content

The digital SAT contains the same content as the paper version, including the sections on Reading, Writing and Language, and Math (with and without a calculator). However, the digital SAT also includes some new features, such as an on-screen calculator, highlighting tools, and a timer that can be paused for breaks.

• Timing

One of the most significant differences between the digital and paper SAT is the timing of the test. On the digital SAT, students have 180 minutes (3 hours) to complete the exam, compared to 205 minutes (3 hours and 25 minutes) on the paper version. The digital SAT also has fewer breaks than the paper version. Students will have one 10-minute break during the test, compared to the two five-minute breaks on the paper SAT.

The digital SAT is broken down into five sections: 

→ Reading

→ Writing

→ Language

→ Math with calculator

→ Math without calculator

→ An optional essay

The essay section is now at the end of the test, rather than the beginning.

Students will have →

• 65 minutes to complete the Reading section

• 35 minutes for Writing and Language

55 minutes for Math with a calculator

• 25 minutes for Math without a calculator

• 50 minutes for the optional essay.

It's essential for students to be aware of these timing differences so they can plan their approach to the test accordingly. For example, they may need to adjust their pacing on the Reading and Math sections to ensure they have enough time to answer all the questions within the allotted time.

Overall, the content and timing of the digital SAT are similar to the paper version, with a few key differences that students should be aware of. It's important to note that while the digital version of the SAT offers several benefits, it may not be the best choice for everyone. Some students may prefer the familiarity and comfort of taking a paper test, while others may thrive in a digital testing environment. Ultimately, the best way to decide which format is right for you is to take practice tests in both formats and evaluate your performance and comfort level.

Tips for Taking The Digital SAT

The digital format offers new opportunities for students to showcase their skills and knowledge, but it also presents some unique challenges. Here are some tips for taking the digital SAT:

• Get comfortable with the digital format

The digital format of the SAT includes various tools such as highlighting, underlining, and a calculator. Familiarize yourself with these tools before test day. You can practice using them on the official SAT practice tests available on the College Board website. Also, make sure you're comfortable reading and answering questions on a computer screen instead of a paper-based test.

• Practice time management

One of the biggest challenges of the digital SAT is the time management aspect. You have to manage your time to read, understand, and answer questions while also navigating the digital interface. Practice taking timed tests to improve your speed and accuracy. Time yourself for each section and question and try to finish each section within the allotted time.

• Minimize distractions

Taking the digital SAT at home or at school can be distracting. Find a quiet place to take the test, turn off your phone, and let your family and friends know that you'll be taking the test. The fewer distractions you have, the more focused you can be on the test.

• Be prepared for technical issues

Technical issues can happen, but don't let them distract you from your test-taking mindset. Familiarize yourself with the computer you'll be using for the test and make sure it's working correctly. If you encounter any technical issues during the test, alert the proctor immediately.

• Take breaks and stay hydrated

The digital SAT is a lengthy test, and taking breaks and staying hydrated can help you maintain your concentration. During the test, you'll have a break of 10 minutes after the Reading Test and 5 minutes after the Math Test. Use this time to stretch your legs, use the restroom, or eat a snack. Make sure you drink plenty of water before and during the test to stay hydrated.

• Stay calm and focused

The digital SAT can be stressful, but try to stay calm and focused throughout the test. Taking deep breaths and visualizing a positive outcome can help reduce stress and anxiety. Remember to pace yourself and answer each question to the best of your ability.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the digital format of the SAT offers new opportunities and challenges for students. To succeed on the digital SAT, get comfortable with the digital format, practice time management, minimize distractions, be prepared for technical issues, take breaks and stay hydrated, and stay calm and focused. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of success on the digital SAT.