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The SAT® is going digital in the U.S in 2024. How will the new test be different from the existing pencil and paper exam?

What’s staying the same?

The goal and intent of the SAT exam

The digital SAT will continue to measure the knowledge and skills students are learning in school and that matter most for college readiness.

Knowledge and skills

The two sections of the digital SAT exam also measure generally similar knowledge and skills the current pencil and paper test, including:

  • Use of reading/writing passages across a range of academic disciplines and text complexities.
  • Demonstration of command of evidence, both textual and quantitative.
  • Emphasis on common words and phrases in context.
  • Focus on revising and editing writing to improve the effectiveness of expression and demonstrate command of Standard English sentence structure, usage, and punctuation.
  • Continued focus on the math that matters most for college and career readiness.
  • Use of both multiple-choice and student-produced response question formats in the Math section.

The overall score scale

The SAT will continue to be scored on the same 400-1600 score scale as the current paper and pencil test.

Testing location

The digital SAT will still be administered in a school or in a test center with a proctor present. There will not be an option to take the digital SAT at home.

What’s changing?

Test length and breakdown

The digital SAT Suite assessments are substantially shorter than their paper and pencil predecessors—lasting 2 hours and 14 minutes instead of 3 hours. Test takers have more time to answer each question, meaning that the digital SAT Suite test measures of students’ skills and knowledge, not test-taking speed.

The test is composed of two sections: Reading and Writing and Math. Students have 64 minutes to complete the Reading and Writing section and 70 minutes to complete the Math section.

Each section is composed of two equal-length modules of test questions. Each Reading and Writing module lasts 32 minutes, while each Math module lasts 35 minutes. Each module is separately timed, and students can move backward and forward among questions in a given module before time runs out. When time runs out on the first module of each section, the test delivery platform moves students to the second module. When students complete the Reading and Writing section, they are moved to the Math section after a 10-minute break between the sections. A small number of indistinguishable, unscored items are included in each section to aid with the test development process.

Reading and Writing section changes

  • The digital assessments have a single Reading and Writing section instead of separate Reading and Writing and Language Tests. This shift will measure English language arts and content area literacy knowledge and skills more efficiently.
  • The digital SAT Reading and Writing section will feature many shorter passages instead of a few long texts. This means students will see a wider range of topics that represent the kinds of works they’ll read in college. At the same time, these shorter passages maintain the level of rigor of longer reading passages.
  • A single question is associated with each passage instead of having several questions associated with a small number of long passages.

Math section changes

  • Calculators are allowed throughout the Math section. A single Math section replaces the separately timed no-calculator and calculator portions of the paper and pencil SAT test. This change allows the Math section to more accurately reflect how calculators are used in schools and in the real world. It also simplifies test administration by eliminating separately timed test portions with different rules. Students may continue to use their own approved calculator on test day or take advantage of the calculator built directly into the testing application.
  • The average length of the word problems has been reduced. These questions still serve a valuable role in the Math section, as they assess whether students can apply their math skills and knowledge to both academic and real-world situations. However, these longer contexts posed barriers that could inhibit some students, often but not only English learners, from demonstrating their core math achievement.

Multistage adaptive testing

The digital SAT Suite will utilize a multistage adaptive testing (MST) methodology. Being adaptive means the test can fairly and accurately measure the same things with a shorter test while preserving test reliability.

Digital SAT adaptive testing

Each section is divided into two equal-length and separately timed stages, each composed of a module of questions. As illustrated above, students begin each test section by answering the set of questions in the first module. This module contains a broad mix of easy, medium, and hard questions that allows students to demonstrate their achievement before moving on to the second module. The questions in this second module are broadly targeted to the test taker’s achievement level based on their performance in the first module. Questions are either (on average) higher difficulty or lower difficulty than questions in the first module. This means that the test “adapts” to present questions that are more appropriate to a student’s performance level.

Score reporting

Students and educators will receive scores in days, rather than in weeks with the current exam.

Key Benefits of the New Digital SAT

Easier to take

The digital test itself is roughly an hour shorter. Students can take the digital tests on a wide range of devices, including their own laptops, iPads, school-owned desktops and laptops, and school-managed Chromebooks. Initial data collected by the College Board from pilot participants strongly support the claim that the digital SAT Suite tests are easier to take. For example, 88% of surveyed test takers reported an excellent or good experience taking a digital SAT test.

Easier to administer

The new digital SAT will also be easier to give. Gone are the days of shipping, securing, unpacking, distributing, collecting, and repacking test materials. The tests themselves have fewer separately timed sections and exam timing is handled by the test delivery platform itself, not the proctor. The College Board has also designed the digital SAT test delivery platform to be tolerant of momentary interruptions in connectivity without losing students’ work or time.

More secure

The switch to digital has eliminated the paper handling that not only places burdens on test administrators but also creates security risks. Also, each student is administered a highly comparable but unique version of the test, which greatly eliminates students copying from their test-taking neighbors or scouring the internet for leaked tests.

More relevant

With the digital tests, the number and variety of contexts included have been greatly increased. This means that there are many more opportunities for the tests to represent the diversity of people, experiences, and interests in the United States and around the world. This greatly increases the chances that students will encounter passages that they find meaningful and personally interesting.

Ready to get started on SAT prep? Reach out to your nearest C2 center today!