This is part one in a series of three articles – be sure to read the other installments!
The SAT (and its younger cousin, the PSAT) are making the move from paper and pencil to a new digital-only format.
The new tests will be shorter, more user-friendly and – for the first time – computer adaptive.
- What does this mean for your students?
- What will change?
- What will stay the same?
Tungsten Prep is ready to help your students prepare for the new Digital PSAT and Digital SAT. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What You Need to Know
Going digital means that the PSAT (starting in October, 2023) and the SAT (beginning in March, 2024) will be taken only online via computer app.
But this does not mean that students can take these online tests on their own at home.
Both new tests will still be given under proctored, in person conditions as in prior years.
The Educational Testing Service (“ETS”) has developed an app which students will download on the device of their choice (laptop or tablet) prior to the test date.
Students will be allowed to bring their own (fully charged!) computers or tablets to the test center. They can also choose to use a computer provided by the test center, with advance notice.
- PSAT – fully digital testing begins in U.S. high schools in October 2023.
- SAT – fully digital testing begins at U.S. test centers in March 2024.
For planning purposes, note that the current paper and pencil / bubble-in-the-answer version of the SAT will be available only through the December 2023 test date. (International testing centers will begin offering the digital SAT in March 2023).
What is New? – Timing, Format, and Content
- “Welcome to a better test experience,” says the ETS, about the new tests. Both the PSAT and the SAT will be significantly shorter in duration. Due to format changes (more on this below), the digital SAT will only take two hours and fourteen minutes instead of the current three hours.
- The test format will change to be more user-friendly, with only two sections instead of four. The Reading and Writing sections will be combined into one section, and the second section will be Math.
- Reading passages will be shorter. Say goodbye to the current long reading passages of 600 to 700 words with 10 to 11 questions each. The new reading passages on the digital SAT will be much shorter (25 to 150 words) with only one question per passage.
- For the Math section, students will be able to use a calculator throughout the entire section. Students can either bring their own calculator or use the built-in one in the app.
- The content of the Math section will not change but the names have. New heading names are Algebra, Advanced Math, Problem Solving/Data Analysis, Geometry, and Trigonometry.
- Scores for the new digital SAT will be available in days, not weeks.
What is the Biggest Change? – New Computer Adaptive Testing
- The new digital SAT will be stage or section adaptive. The computer adaptive format enables each test to offer questions tailored to a student’s performance level. Each test section (Reading and Writing; Math) will be divided into two stages or modules.
How the adaptive process will work:
After a student answers the questions in the first module, the second module will “adapt” to align with a student’s performance on the first module. Translation: how well a student does (i.e. the number of questions answered correctly or incorrectly) in the first module of the Reading and Writing Section or Math section, will impact the difficulty level of the questions in the second module. If a student does well in the first module, the second module will contain harder questions.
More details and advice about how the new computer adaptive test may impact your student’s testing experience will be given in Part II of this series.
What will stay the same:
- Scores will still be on the 1600 scale. This means that a score of 1320 on the paper version will be equivalent to a score of 1320 on the digital SAT.
- Both the Reading and Writing and the Math Sections will have multiple choice questions.
- Accommodations will still be available, including paper testing for those students who are unable to take the test in the digital form.
Will the ACT also go digital?
The company that offers the ACT does not plan to move from a paper and pencil format to a digital format anytime soon. The ACT content will also stay the same – English, Math, Reading, and Science. This may mean that for some students, the ACT will be a better fit than the new digital SAT.
When Can Students Start to Prepare?
Some digital SAT practice tests are available now. Get in touch and we can show you how to get started. We can also share advice for longer-term preparation for current 10th graders to start thinking about how to improve their math, reading, writing, and vocabulary skills.
What does this mean for the Class of 2024 (current 11th graders)?
Current juniors can still take the current paper and pencil SAT test in the fall of their senior year.
What does this mean for the Class of 2025 (current 10th graders)?
Current sophomores will be the first class at U.S. high schools to take both the PSAT and SAT in digital form.
Tungsten Prep and our test prep tutors have studied the new test format and are ready to help you and your students prepare for the new digital PSAT in October and the digital SAT in March 2024. Our process is centered around finding what works best for each student and making informed decisions you feel confident in – plus, we can make the test prep process fun. If you are a family planning to test once these changes take place, reach out to our team!
Wait, there’s more!
In Part II of the “SAT is Going Digital” – we will offer a deep dive into the new SAT format, what types of new questions will be asked, and what questions won’t.
In Part III of the “SAT is Going Digital” – we will offer advice on how your students – in all years of high school – can prepare for the new digital tests.
Anticipating your questions, we will also tell you why we think taking the SAT or ACT remains valuable, even if a college or university states it is “test optional.”
Learn more about how Tungsten Prep can help your student achieve his/her/their test taking goals.
Nancy L. Wolf