What You Need to Know About the New Digital SAT

For the first time, the paper test is giving way to a digital SAT. Experts from Academic Approach offer four things you and your student need to know about this new format.

If your high schooler will take the SAT in spring 2024, they’ll no longer need their sharpened No. 2 pencils. They can leave their calculator at home. For the first time in the U.S., the SAT will be delivered in an all-digital format. What does your child need to know about the digital SAT?

“The March 2024 SAT will be digital,” confirms Carla Pedersen, Regional Director with Academic Approach, a Chicago academic tutoring and test prep company. She adds that the PSAT 8/9, the PSAT 10 and the PSAT/NMSQT in fall 2023 will also be digital.

All Illinois public school students will have the opportunity to take the PSAT and SAT during high school testing dates, so a new digital format affects a significant population of students.

Parents may have more concerns about the new testing format than their kids, says Andrew Ferguson, Director of Client Services at Academic Approach. “We forget how capable kids are of adapting to constant change. The students I have spoken with who have taken the practice exam online have all said they liked it,” Ferguson says. “Parents, on the other hand, worry about what colleges will think about the new test, and they worry about their children being the first to take this exam in a new format.”

As your student gears up to take this college entrance exam in the spring or the PSAT in the fall, which can qualify them for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship program, they may have questions about what the test is like and how best to prepare. Here are four things you need to know about the new digital SAT.

The digital SAT adapts

When your student sits down to take the digital SAT, the first module in the test determines the rigor of the second module. In this way, the test adapts to your child’s aptitude. That’s transformative, says Pedersen.

“Where the paper-and-pencil SAT was a static test a student worked through linearly, it’s now adaptive. The student completes the initial module, then based on their performance, the remainder of the test is slightly easier or more complex,” she explains. Having a test uniquely matched to your student’s academic skill level means they can potentially achieve a higher score. “If you’re a high-performing student, you want to be able to maximize your score and show what you are capable of,” explains Pedersen. The exam will stay on the 1600 scale.

The digital SAT is shorter

The digital SAT now takes two hours and 14 minutes to complete. The digital PSATs are also more closely aligned to the digital SAT than their paper-and-pencil counterparts. This means the digital PSAT shares the same number of questions and overall time (2 hours and 14 minutes) as the digital SAT.

“When students hear that the test is shorter, they like what they hear,” says Ferguson.

Digital tools make the test user-friendly

“There’s a question map in the test, so you can jump forward or go back within a module. You can flag questions that you are unsure about and go back to them,” Pedersen explains, adding that the test will show you if you skipped a question. “There are certain pieces in that regard that are nice if you feel comfortable using the technology.”

Calculators are allowed on the entire math section — and a graphing calculator is built into the testing application. Students can bring their own graphing calculator if they prefer, but it’s worthwhile to also check out the helpful features of the built-in calculator ahead of time.

Your student’s prep is the same

No matter the format, your student’s testing preparation remains fundamentally the same, says Pedersen.

“Our recommendations come back to the same foundation. Your child should find out as soon as possible where they stand in this mix by taking a practice test. They should learn what content and skills they have mastered and where they need to focus their energy to best prepare for the test,” she says.

Your child can take a practice test right on the College Board website. “They have several exams online that your student can take. Then, send us their scores and we will discuss the results with you and help you understand what they mean,” Ferguson says. “You can also take the ACT practice test, which is still a paper test, and find out which is your student’s preferred format.”

Even before any tutoring takes place, the experts at Academic Approach provide a complimentary consultation to help your student know where they stand — and where they can invest time and energy to get the best results possible.

“Even more so than before, students should definitely work to become comfortable with the ACT and SAT test formats prior to jumping into either of these tests with both feet,” he says. “We know there will be many questions, and we would love to help answer those. Many families don’t know about this change, and it probably feels far off, but it will be here sooner than you think.”

Expertise brought to you by Academic Approach. Learn more at academicapproach.com.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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