The Digital SAT® – What You Need To Know!

In early 2022, the College Board® released information detailing the SAT®’s transition to a fully digital test by 2024. The Digital SAT represents a quantum leap from the traditional SAT evaluation system, justifying the drastic changes in its format, length, pattern, and interface. For students around the world, it entails a notable difference in what you can expect on test day and how you should prepare for it. In this article, we are exploring the digital testing format, time, test sections, and how the test is scored to help you prep smarter for the Digital SAT.

The paper and pencil test will no longer be available after fall 2023. This version of the test has a linear format, is three hours long, and allows calculators in only part of the math section. The Digital SAT, which is available for all students as of spring 2024, lasts 2 hours and 14 minutes and allows students to use a calculator on the entirety of the math section.

What is the Digital SAT?

The Digital SAT, or digital Scholastic Aptitude Test, is an adaptive standardized online test that is widely used for college admissions in the United States and India. The Digital SAT is designed to assess a student's readiness for college and provide colleges with a common data point that can be used to compare the qualifications of applicants. Students take the test online through an app set up by the College Board, called Bluebook. You need to install the app on your Mac or Windows device, Chromebook, or iPad to take the SAT online. If you do not have access to an accepted device, you can request to borrow one from the College Board when you register for the test. In that case, you will be provided with school-managed Chromebooks to take the test.

The Digital SAT is shorter than the traditional paper and pencil version and has been designed to improve test quality, security, delivery, and access for students worldwide. More on these later; let’s start by asking why the SAT has gone digital and how it is different from the old SAT.

Why has the SAT gone digital?

The transition of the SAT from the paper and pencil version to the digital one shows two things: first, taking the SAT online will enable students to participate in a standardized evaluation of college readiness from around the world. It will be easier to administer and to take. Therefore, with the Digital SAT being administered universally as of 2024, it’s become possible to see a drastic rise in the number of test-takers worldwide.

Second, a survey conducted by the College Board in 2021 found that 80% of students want to submit their SAT scores with their college applications. Keeping this in mind, the College Board has introduced a host of features to the Digital SAT.

  • The digital format also offers much faster score releases. Students typically receive scores in a matter of days rather than weeks. Speaking of scores, the new Digital SAT score reports link students to resources on local two-year colleges, training programs, and career options.
  • The College Board also has enhanced security measures to encourage more students to take the SAT. With the SAT going digital, every student now gets a highly comparable but unique test form, making it practically impossible to share answers.
  • The digital SAT also offers more flexibility to schools and districts in administering the test.

How the Digital SAT may affect you?

The release of the Digital SAT was staggered into two groups: International SAT and U.S. SAT. The international SAT test began following the digital format in spring 2023. By spring 2024, both the U.S and International versions of the test will have transitioned to its digital format. The table below shows the complete timeline for the transition to the Digital SAT (2023 through 2024):

Cycle International SAT US SAT
Spring 2023 Digital Paper and Pencil
Mar 11, 2023
May 6, 2023
June 3, 2023
Fall 2023 Digital Paper and Pencil
Spring 2024 Digital Digital
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How Is the Digital SAT Different from the Paper and Pencil SAT?

The first obvious change is that the digital test is taken on a computer or tablet. In addition, the College Board has introduced some major changes to the SAT that you should be aware of. Below is the list of changes as from the old SAT to the new SAT:

To take the Digital SAT, you need a device that connects to Wi-Fi. You have to download and install the latest version of  the Bluebook® testing application on a Mac or Windows device, an iPad, or a school-managed Chromebook. You must sign in to the app using your College Board online account username and password. For more information about device and OS compatibility, check out this page on Digital SAT device readiness here.

To make the testing experience convenient and hassle-free, the Bluebook app comes with the following handy features.

  • Mark for review feature helps you flag and return to any question within the test module if you wish to review later.
  • Timer has been included to count down the remaining time in each module. You can choose to hide the timer, but you will be notified when five minutes remain for the module.
  • Built-in graphing calculator to use for the Math section.
  • Reference sheet helps you access standard formulas you might need during the test.
  • Annotation allows you to highlight any part of a question and make notes.
  • Option eliminator will help you strike through the answer choices to a question you feel are not correct.

The “Help” section of the testing app also include a list of keyboard shortcuts to help you navigate the application easily.

The Digital SAT cannot be taken on a mobile phone but can be accessed on school-managed or personal iPads that meet the College Board device specifications.

You may wonder how long is the Digital SAT test? The good news is that the Digital SAT is a considerably shorter test to take. While the traditional paper and pencil test takes three hours to complete, the Digital SAT only lasts two hours and 14 minutes. The table below compares the testing times of the old SAT vs. Digital SAT:

 Paper SATDigital SAT
Reading and Writing1 hr 40 mins1 hr 4 mins
Math1 hr 20 mins1 hr 10 mins
Total3 hrs2 hrs 14 mins

This change will not decrease the time you have per question; instead, the average time per question is increasing to 1.19 minutes per reading and writing question and 1.59 minutes per math question.

The Digital SAT features a single Reading and Writing (RW) section instead of the two separate tests for the Evidence-based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section that we’ve seen in the paper SAT format.

According to the College Board, this change helps to measure subject knowledge and skills more efficiently than the paper and pencil SAT Reading and Writing assessments. The number of questions has also been dramatically cut down. Additionally, questions in this section are jumbled and do not appear in sequential order, as they do on the paper and pencil SAT.

 Paper SATDigital SAT
ReadingWriting and LanguageReading and Writing
No. of Questions52 MCQs44 MCQs54 MCQs
Time65 mins35 mins64 mins

The math portion has also been replaced with a single math section instead of the two separate sections that we’ve seen in the paper and pencil SAT test format. Unlike the old SAT, which has always included no-calculator and calculator-permitted sections, the Digital SAT allows you to use a calculator throughout the entire Math section. The Digital SAT also provides students with an embedded Desmos graphing calculator, so they no longer have to bring their own calculator to the test.

Per the College Board, this transition reflects the usage of calculators in schools and real-world scenarios more accurately than the SAT’s paper and pencil version. If you do choose to bring your own calculator to the test, you need to make sure that you bring one approved by the College Board–check out our page on SAT Policies.

 Paper SATDigital SAT
No. of Questions5844
Time25 mins55 mins70 mins
Calculator UsageNoYesYes

As you may already know, the Digital SAT consists of two equal-length and separately timed sections (Reading and Writing; Math). However, each section has been split into two modules, running for about 32-35 minutes per module.

While the topics covered by both modules are identical, the first module contains a mix of easy, average, and difficult questions. Based on your performance in the first module, the SAT app determines the difficulty of the questions you get in the second module. The multistage adaptive testing (MST) technology built inside the Digital SAT app makes it possible for the test to be considerably shorter than traditional SAT while maintaining a similar difficulty level.

The College Board has not introduced any changes to the new SAT scoring policies. Like its predecessor, the Digital SAT gives you three kinds of scores: a total and two section scores (Reading and Writing, and Math). Our SAT scoring guide can help you learn more about the SAT’s scoring policies. Although the scoring policy remains the same, the Digital SAT score report does come with minor changes; subscores and cross-test scores are not reported.

Do colleges accept a Digital SAT? Yes, they do! The revamped SAT score report has also been redesigned to help you connect your Digital SAT scores with colleges, training programs, and other career options.

The Digital SAT: What Has Stayed the Same?

No matter what format it comes in, the SAT is meant to test how ready a student is for college and a career. As a result, almost all of the tested domains and how they relate to college and career readiness standards are the same. Here’s a list of things that the Digital SAT shares with its paper and pencil predecessor:

  • The Digital SAT costs $60, plus a $43 regional fee. This fee is the same as the paper and pencil SAT for international students.
  • The Reading and Writing section of the SAT continues to organize questions into the four domains the paper and pencil SAT used. This means you can still expect a strong emphasis on questions about the meaning of words in context, the best evidence for an argument, and the appropriate punctuation or part of speech for a given text.
  • Similarly, Math questions continue to focus on algebra, problem-solving and data analysis, advanced math, geometry, and trigonometry. The Math section also continues to include short word problems with multiple-choice questions and student-produced response problems.
  • On an even more basic level, the SAT continues to be primarily made up of four answer-choice questions, continues to be graded on a scale of 400-1600, and is proctored in the same schools and test centers where the paper and pencil tests were administered. Those administrations also allow comparable accommodations to any students who require them.
  • Finally, while the format of the Digital SAT is designed to make the test experience simpler, the difficulty levels of both the SATs are comparable to each other. Therefore, any given score on the Digital SAT is just as effective in securing college admissions or scholarships as the paper and pencil format.

How Can You Practice for the New SAT?

The College Board has also released the Bluebook application to help students get familiar with the Digital SAT testing interface. The Bluebook app comes with a few full-length practice tests that you can practice. The College Board also provides a downloadable pdf of the Digital SAT sample questions.

You can also take SAT practice tests in the traditional format to sharpen your skills and enhance your subject knowledge. UWorld's Online Practice Tests for the SAT come with in-depth answer explanations and self-assessment tools to help you develop a baseline for your SAT preparation and learn the content of the test. Of course, UWorld authors worked hard to create questions that match the format of those found on the Digital SAT.

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Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

To take the Digital SAT, students have to download the Bluebook testing application on a Mac or Windows device, an iPad, or a school-managed Chromebook.

If a student cannot access a personal device, they can borrow one from the College Board while registering for the test. They can also use school-managed Chromebooks to take the Digital SAT.

The Digital SAT app has adaptive testing technology, which means that the app creates a module by picking questions randomly from the SAT database. This makes it extremely difficult for test takers to share answers among themselves. In addition, the College Board has put in place various SAT Policies to keep the testing experience secure and convenient.

Yes, homeschooled students can take the Digital SAT.

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