Guide to US Applications • Undergraduate

The New Digital SAT – What Has Changed, What Hasn’t and How to Prepare

POSTED ON 05/10/2022 BY The Red Pen

The New Digital SAT - What has changed, what hasn’t and how to prepare | The Red Pen

In January 2022, the College Board, the governing body of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) announced that the SAT will be conducted digitally in the next couple of years. International students (non-US based) will be able to take the test starting from March 2023, while US students will have to wait till spring 2024. In November 2021, the College Board piloted the digital SAT in the US and internationally which resulted in 80 percent of students finding it less stressful and 100 percent of educators reported a positive experience. The College Board stated that they have changed the format to address the accessibility concerns due to the pandemic and lack of equity in the SAT.

So what exactly is the digital SAT:

By going digital, the SAT aims to bring about a number of changes and features, while certain aspects will still stay the same. Even though the digital SAT is a computer-based test, it can’t be taken from your home; it can only be taken at your school or at authorised test centres. Students can bring their own device or use a center-issued device. Also, the test is designed in such a way that students’ work won’t be lost in case of power failure or connectivity issues.

Besides this, here are 10 things you need to know:

What has changed in the new digital SAT:

1) The digital SAT will be shorter:

The new test will last about two hours instead of three and you will also have more time for each question.

2) The test will be adaptive:

This means the difficulty level of questions will be based on your answers. If you perform well in the first section, your second section will be harder.

3) Reading passages will be shorter:

Add to this, there will only be one question per passage. They will reflect a wider range of topics such as humanities, sciences, economics, politics and more.

4) Calculators will be allowed for the entire math section:

Currently, the math sections are divided into two: calculator and non-calculator. The digital SAT won’t have separate sections. Students can either bring their own calculator or use the in-built one.

5) Scores will be released faster:

You will get your score in days rather than weeks later as is the case with the previous SAT.

6) Reports will have more information:

Digital score reports will also provide relevant information on two-year colleges, careers and workforce training programmes.

What hasn’t changed in the new digital SAT:

1) The test content and curriculum are the same:

The digital SAT will continue to measure the skills and knowledge that students are learning in high school and what they need for the future.

2) Scores will still be on a 1600 scale:

The test report format will also be the same including percentile rankings and a breakdown of a student’s score. Educators and students can continue to track growth across the suite over time.

3) Colleges will accept the Digital SAT:

Colleges are on board with this change. Depending on their policies, they will use it as a part of the application.

4) Accommodations will be available:

For those who receive them, accommodations will still be available on test day.

How to prepare for the new digital SAT:

  • Practice: Similar to the prep for the current SAT you need to take practice tests. However, now you will need to take computer-based mock tests. Students will still have free access to Khan Academy’s free practice resources including free practice exams, videos and testing strategies. The College Board also plans to provide practice tests for students to familiarise themselves with new digital formats and tools.
  • Read: To succeed in the new digital SAT, you need to be a more informed reader and avoid passive reading for better comprehension. Focus on analysing the passages to get relevant answers. Read books, journals and articles across the genres such as science, politics, humanities, environment and world affairs.
  • Revise: Familiarise yourself with complex grammar topics. For the math section, focus more on formulas and facts to complete the section in time.

What does this mean for test-optional universities?

For test-optional universities and top-tier institutions, a high standardised score will remain a distinguishing factor. Many universities still review standardised test scores along with school grades, extracurricular activities, essays and letters of recommendation. This is because high standardised test scores demonstrate your cognitive abilities and college readiness beyond your profile, school academics and internships. Even universities, such as Georgia Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which went test-optional during the pandemic have made the test mandatory again. In fact, given the ease of the new digital format, there will likely be a tremendous increase in the number of SAT test-takers in the coming years.

A note on test-blind vs test-optional

Most colleges are test-optional and not test-blind. Test-optional means that they will review your test scores if you send them, but submitting scores is not mandatory in the application process. As test scores are data points that all admissions committees understand, it is worth submitting them. Test-blind colleges will not review the test scores even if you submit them. Very few colleges are test-blind. The universities that are a part of the University of California system, California Institute of Technology, Pitzer College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are test-blind for Fall 2023.

If you are applying to universities in the 2023-2024 admissions cycle, you should consider starting early. At The Red Pen, we have a host of services that can help you become a competitive applicant such as our Mentorship Programme. If you are unsure about what you want to study, opt for the General Counselling with Psychometric Testing service. For more information, get in touch with us.