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SAT

Digital SAT

Written by Shefali Sundram

Updated on: 19 Apr 2024

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Hey there, test-takers!! Whenever the word “SAT ” comes up, it brings thoughts of hours & hours of taking the exam at the exam center, SAT prep courses, tons of online information, thoughts of dream colleges, and pen and paper versions of the SAT. But has it ever occurred to you that with everything going digital, why can’t the SAT exam get digital?

So, the College Board, maker of the SAT, announced on 25th January 2022 that the widely popular SAT exam is going digital. Yes, you read that right!

With a user-friendly interface, the digital SAT has made the exam process smoother for students. Students have said bye to the pen-and-paper version of the SAT and hello to the digital SAT.

In this blog, we will explain everything you need to know about the digital SAT, including its structure, how it is different from the pen and paper version, and much more.

What is Digital SAT?

The SAT exam has made a full transition from being taken using normal paper and pencil to being taken digitally via a digital assessment platform using a computer or laptop. This is known as the digital SAT.

This transition in the SAT exam is being done to bring multiple useful changes for the students. 

As per Priscilla Rodriguez, leader of the SAT team at College Board, “When students take the digital SAT, it will not simply be a digital version of the current paper and pencil test. It will be a better, more flexible test that’s easier to take, easier to give, more secure, and more relevant.”

She mentioned that, if a student does not have a device of their own, it will be provided by the College Board on the test day. She said, “If your Wi-fi drops or the computer dies (suddenly stops working due to some technical issue) during the test, we have designed the digital SAT so you can just plug back in, reconnect, and you will not lose any time or work.”

She also told me about the timelines from when the changes have been implemented or the changes are going to be effective.

So, from the spring of 2023, students who took the SAT exam at international test centers have taken it digitally.

From the fall of 2023, students who took the PSAT-related assessments have taken it digitally. SAT School Day and SAT weekend administrations in the U.S. will still follow the paper and pencil format.

From the spring of 2024, digital SAT has become compulsory for U.S. students as well. All students (from the U.S. and internationally) now take the complete SAT Suite of Assessments digitally.

Structure of Digital SAT

The digital SAT will be of 2 hours and 14 minutes. It will be divided into two sections:

  1. Math
  2. Reading and Writing

Each of the two sections will be divided into two modules of equal length.

SectionsTime Given (in minutes)Total number of questions
Math70 minutes (35 minutes for each module)44 (22 questions for each module)
Reading and Writing64 minutes (32 minutes for each module)54 (27 questions for each module)
Total134 minutes98

The first module is a “Normal” module while the second module is “Adaptive”. This means that questions in the first module will be the same for each student. However, the questions in the second module will be based on how a student has performed in the first module.

First Module – “Normal”

The first module of each section (Math & Reading and Writing) will almost be the same for all students. This module will have a mixed set of questions with difficulty levels of easy, medium, and difficult.

In the Math section, all the questions will be arranged from easy to difficult level. For this section, there will be a total of 44 questions in module 1 and students will get 35 minutes to solve it.

Similarly, in the Reading and Writing section, all the questions will be arranged from easy to difficult level. For this section, there will be a total of 27 questions in module 1 and students will get 32 minutes to solve it.

Overall, in module 1, students will get 49 questions and 67 minutes (1 hour and 7 minutes) to solve those questions.

Based on the performance and the score of students in module 1, they will get questions in module 2.

Second Module – “Adaptive”

The second module of each section (Math & Reading and Writing) is adaptive. It means the second module is based on the performance and score of the students in the first section. If a student roughly scores more than 65% in module 1, then he will get the difficult version (which will have a hard set of questions) of module 2.

All the questions are of mixed difficulty levels (easy, medium, and difficult) but if you get the difficult version of module 2, then it means you will get more difficult questions compared to easy and medium.

Similarly, if a student roughly scores less than 65% in module 1, then he will get the easy version (which will have an easy set of questions) of module 2. In this case, the student will get more easy questions compared to medium and difficult ones.

Both versions of module 2 (easy and difficult) have questions from the same topics in both sections (Math & Reading and Writing). The change in difficulty level comes from the individual questions.

In the easy version of module 2, you get easy questions from a topic and in the difficult version of module 2, you get hard questions from the same topic. The topics do not change from the easy to difficult version of module 2.

If we consider the Math section, the difference between the easy and difficult version of module 2 can be in terms of

  • Usage of mathematical formulas. The easy version of module 2 has questions that need only one simple formula to get solved. However, the difficult version of module 2 has questions that need multiple and complex formulas to be solved.
  • Number of words in the questions. The easy version of module 2 has short questions with fewer words. However, the difficult version of module 2 has long questions with more words.

In the Reading and Writing section, then the difference between the easy and difficult version of module 2 can be in terms of

  • Number of words in the questions. The easy version of module 2 has short questions with fewer words. However, the difficult version of module 2 has long questions with more words.
  • Context of the question. The easy version of module 2 has questions based on easy-to-understand context. However, the difficult version of module 2 has questions based on difficult contexts (like those related to science or space).
  • Choice of words in the questions. The easy version of module 2 has questions with easy-to-understand words. However, the difficult version of module 2 has questions with difficult terminologies.

In the Math section, students get 44 questions in module 2 and 35 minutes to solve them.

In the Reading and Writing section, students get 27 questions in module 2 and 32 minutes to solve them.

Overall, in module 2, students get 49 questions and 67 minutes (1 hour and 7 minutes) to solve those questions.

There is a 10-minute break between both sections (Math & Reading and Writing). 

Most of the questions asked are multiple-choice questions (MCQs) but for some math questions, you might be asked to enter the answer directly.

Similar to the paper and pencil version of the SAT, there is no negative marking in the digital SAT. So, students can answer all the questions, even if they are not sure about it.

Math Section

In digital SAT, the Math section is designed to measure a student’s reasoning skills, hold over basic concepts, and mathematical knowledge and the ability to apply it while solving questions.

In this section, students get a total of 44 questions and 70 minutes to solve it.

This section is split into four categories:

  1. Algebra

This category tests your analytical skills and your ability to create and solve linear equations, inequalities, and systems of equations using various methods.

  1. Advanced Math

Advanced Math focuses on the math that you will mostly need while pursuing higher studies or for career opportunities in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

This category focuses on testing your understanding of concepts like absolute value, quadratic, exponential, polynomial, rational, radical, and nonlinear functions.

  1. Problem-solving and Data Analysis

This category focuses on testing your analytical skills, reasoning skills, knowledge of ratios, rates, interpreting one and two-variable data, and how well you can apply these skills.

  1. Geometry and Trigonometry 

This category tests your ability to understand various mathematical shapes and solve questions related to lines, and angles, and find the area and volume of those shapes.

Questions in the Math section are based on one of the above four categories.

As we have mentioned above, each section is divided into two modules, so each module of this section contains questions from all four categories. Questions are arranged from easy to hard level.

Reading and Writing Section

In digital SAT, the Reading and Writing section is designed to measure a student’s reading comprehension skills, his writing skills, and how well he understands the language.

In this section, students get a total of 54 questions and 64 minutes to solve them.

The Reading and Writing section contains short reading passages with a multiple-choice question after that. The passages contain information from history, science, literature, and humanities.

This section is split into four categories:

  1. Information and Ideas

This category tests your analytical skills, reasoning skills, and ability to understand, evaluate, and relate information and ideas from passages, tables, or different kinds of graphs.

  1. Craft and Structure

This category focuses on testing your vocabulary, reasoning skills, understanding of high-utility words (words that appear frequently across a paragraph or a passage), and the ability to make connections between similar texts.

  1. Expression of Ideas

This category focuses on testing your ability to understand words and the meaning behind them to improve the effectiveness of the usage of words.

  1. Standard English Conventions 

This category tests your ability to understand the core conventions of Standard English, such as punctuation, sentence usage in any context, and sentence structure.

Similar to the Math section, questions in the Reading and Writing section are based on one of the above four categories.

Each of the two modules of this section contains questions from all four categories which are arranged from easy to hard level.

How is the Digital SAT Different?

6 key differences between digital SAT and normal SAT are: 

  1. Duration of the exam

The Digital SAT is shorter than the paper and pencil version of the SAT exam. It is around 2 hours 14 minutes instead of 3 with only two sections (Math & Reading and Writing). There is a short break of 10 minutes between the two sections.

For the Reading and Writing section, the digital SAT contains shorter reading passages.

  1. Bringing your own calculator is allowed

For the digital SAT, students are allowed to bring their own calculators. They also have access to a built-in graphic calculator. 

  1. Computers are provided

If any student does not have a device of its own for the exam, it is also provided. This applies to the students taking the exam in the U.S. as well as internationally. Such students need to request their device at least 30 days before the test day.

  1. The exam is computer-adaptive and more secure

Digital SAT is customized as per the student’s performance. Based on the answers given in the first module of any section, a student gets questions in the second module.

If the student gets more right answers in the first module, then he gets harder questions in the second module. In this case, questions in the second module hold more points.

On the other hand, if the student gets fewer right answers in the first module, then he gets easy to moderate questions in the second module. In this case, questions in the second module do not hold more points.

This way, the Digital SAT is more secure as it makes it possible to give a unique test form to each student. This makes the sharing of answers impossible.

  1. The optional essay is no longer present in the digital SAT.
  2. The scores will be delivered in days instead of weeks.

As per Priscilla Rodriguez, leader of the SAT team at College Board, before the SAT went digital, the College Board did pilot the digital SAT with students both in the U.S., and international test centers to know what they think about the changes.

Here’s what students who participated in the pilot said

  • “I guess one of the single biggest improvements with the digital SAT version would be how the questions are formatted.”
  • ”It was shorter, it made sense, it got straight to the point and we were able to analyze and answer the questions.”
  • ”On the pilot SAT, check-in was way easier.”
  • ”Having it online digitally is more convenient. You can easily switch between the questions and other tools are provided, like a calculator’s built-in.”
  • ”Everything was already downloaded and ready to go, like, as soon as you walked in the door.
  • ”It tells you where everything is, where the calculator is, where the sheet is for formulas.”
  • ”There’s a little clock in the corner that you can always refer to. You know exactly how much time you have left and you can better manage your time.”
  • ”SAT was much shorter, and the questions were a lot concise and straightforward.”

What Things Are the Same in the Digital SAT?

With many changes coming into place in the digital SAT, a few things are the same, such as

  1. Just like the paper and pencil version of the SAT, the digital SAT is also scored on a 1600 scale.
  2. The digital SAT takes place in schools or test centers in the presence of an invigilator, the same as the paper and pencil version of the SAT.
  3. The fee for the Digital SAT is the same as the paper and pencil version of the SAT, which is $60.
  4. The digital SAT still measures the knowledge and skills that students are learning in high school and that matter most for college and career readiness.

How is the Digital SAT Taken?

To be able to take the digital SAT, students need to download the “Bluebook testing application”. 

Bluebook testing application custom-built app that students need to use to take the digital SAT exam. It is the same testing application that is used by students to take digital AP exams.

To download the Bluebook testing application, click here.

You can run this application on Windows, a Mac device, or an iPad. This application can not run on a mobile device.

Bluebook has many features, so during the exam, you will have access to a set of tools:

  • For the Reading and Writing section, you have an annotation tool to highlight your text and you also are able to leave a note to yourself.
  • For the Math section, you have a reference sheet and a calculator. You can still bring your calculator.
  • For multiple-choice questions, you get to cross out the options which you feel are not right.
  • You get to move back and forth in any particular section. So, if you are not sure about any question, you can mark for review that question and come back to it later.

When the exam is over, your answers get submitted automatically. Wait until you see the “Congratulations” screen to close your device.

Now, before the test day, students are advised to follow the below steps:

  1. Download the Bluebook testing application on your device which you are going to use on the test day. If you are going to take the test on a device provided by the College Board, then this might be done for you already.
  2. Log in to the application using your College Board account and complete a quick exam setup. By doing this, the application will confirm that your device meets all the requirements. Your admission ticket will be generated now.
  3. Print your admission ticket and email it to yourself, so that you will have it handy on the exam day.
  4. Make sure to disable all the writing assistants like Grammarly or messaging apps. Bluebook should be the only application running on your device to take the test.

How to Borrow a Device from the College Board?

If you do not have a device of your own and can not borrow one from your family or friends, the College Board has a process to provide you with a device for the test day. You can check our article to learn the detailed steps on how to borrow a device from the College Board.

Tips to Prepare for the Digital SAT

To prepare yourself for the digital SAT and make a strong preparation plan, here are a few tips for you to focus on:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the format of the test, the types of questions, and the digital application using which you will take the test.
  1. Take full-length practice tests on the Bluebook testing application. Full-length practice tests will give you the best experience of the test day. By taking the practice test on the testing application, you will also get a chance to understand the application.
  1.  After taking the full-length practice test, you can review your performance and read explanations of answers for the questions you missed. This way, you will get to know the areas where you need to focus and practice more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Digital SAT the Same as SAT?

The following changes are there in the digital SAT:

  • The Digital SAT is shorter than the paper and pencil version of the SAT exam. It is around 2 hours and 14 minutes instead of 3 hours.
  • Computers are provided to students who do not have their own devices.
  • Students are allowed to bring their own calculators.
  • Digital SAT is computer-adaptive and more secure.
  • No optional essay is there in the digital SAT.

The following things are still the same in the digital SAT just like the paper and pencil version of the SAT:

  • The digital SAT is also scored on a 1600 scale.
  • Fee for the digital SAT is the same ($60).
  • The digital SAT still takes place in schools or test centers in the presence of an invigilator.

Is Digital SAT Easier?

The general consensus is that the Digital SAT is easier than the paper and pencil version of the SAT. The following points make the digital SAT easier: 

  1. The exam duration is less.
  2. Digital SAT has fewer questions.
  3. Students are allowed to use a calculator for the Math section.
  4. Digital SAT is computer-adaptive and adjusts the difficulty level based on a student’s performance.

Is Digital SAT Cheaper?

No, the fee for the digital SAT is $60 same as the paper and pencil version of the SAT. Please refer to the College Board’s official site for the latest information.

References

Written by

Shefali Sundram

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