This is part two of a three-part series, be sure to come back for the next installment!

As promised in part one of this series, we are taking you on a deep dive into the new Digital SAT. 

To recap, the pencil and paper forms of the PSAT and SAT are heading soon to the test prep trash basket.  

This history-making move by the Educational Testing Service (“ETS”) – going from pencil and paper tests that have been used for decades to digital tests taken via a computer app (“Bluebook”) – will change the test-taking horizon for your students.  

For in-high-school test dates, the PSAT will become fully digital effective October 2023, as will the SAT in March 2024.  

Not only will both tests become fully digital (except for students qualifying for paper accommodations), but, as we explained in part one, the SAT will be significantly shorter, have a new format, and ask new questions.  

Perhaps the biggest change impacting students is that both tests will become “computer stage adaptive.” More on this below.  

Let’s go through these changes in turn: 

The New Digital SAT will be Much Shorter In Length 


Current Paper SAT Test

  • Reading:
    • 65 minutes
    • 52 questions
  • Writing:
    • 35 minutes
    • 44 questions
  • Math – no calculator
    • 25 minutes
    • 20 questions
  • Math – with calculator
    • 55 minutes
    • 38 questions
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Total Questions 154

New Digital SAT Test

  • Combined Reading and Writing
    • Module One:
      • 32 minutes
      • 27 questions
    • Module Two:
      • 32 minutes
      • 27 questions
  • Math with Calculator
    • Module One:
      • 35 minutes
      • 22 questions
    • Module Two:
      • 35 minutes
      • 22 questions
  • Total Time: 2 hours and 14 minutes
  • Total Questions: 98

The new, shorter test with far fewer questions (98 instead of 154) will likely be more popular with students. But don’t be misled – while shorter, the content found on the new test may not be easier. There are two reasons why this may be the case. First, the new format combines the reading and writing questions into one section. And second, some students will take a harder test than others.

Let us explain.

New Format for the Digital SAT

The current paper SAT is divided into separate reading and writing sections. However, they will be combined in the new digital SAT. 

Another difference is that the current paper SAT permits calculator use only in the second half of the math section, but the new digital SAT will permit calculator use throughout the entire math section. 

And, while a student can bring their own calculator, the new digital SAT will contain a built-in calculator for students to use, allowing them to choose which calculator they prefer.

From Static to Adaptive 

The change from a static to an adaptive test is the biggest change ETS is making because some students will take an easier SAT than others! How does this work? The current paper and pencil test contains identical questions for all students. Students do not receive harder, or easier, questions based on their performance as the test proceeds from section to section. 

The new digital SAT, however, will be “stage adaptive”.

The first module (SAT-speak for the word “stage”) of each section will be the same for all students.  

But, based on how a student performs in module one for the Verbal and Math sections, the SAT will “adapt” and offer an easier version of module two to some students, and a different, more difficult, module two to others. 

Each of the modules will contain a variety of easy, medium, and hard questions. But students with fewer correct answers in module one will be given a second module containing more easy questions and students with more correct answers in module one will be given a second module containing more difficult questions. 

How this impacts scoring: 

We won’t get too technical here, but in this kind of “stage adaptive” test, different questions are given different weights. What this means is that students who are directed to a more difficult second module after the first module will be able to achieve a higher score with fewer correct answers.  

(If you would like more technical details on how the scoring process for the new digital SAT test will work, please ask us).

As you might have gathered, having a “stage adaptive” test will also result in a far more secure test. With each student taking a unique exam, cheating will become much harder. 


Goodbye Idioms and Hello Poetry: Changes in the Reading and Writing Section  

The current Reading and Writing & Language SAT paper test contains:

  • A Reading section with five long (600 to 700 words) passages 
  • 10 to 11 questions per Reading passage 
  • A Writing and Language section with four  passages 
  • 44 Writing and Language questions; 20 on standard written English grammar and usage rules, and 24 related to writing (i.e., the development, organization and expression of ideas)

The new digital test COMBINES reading and writing into one section.  

The format of the NEW digital test will also be different: 

  • Far shorter (25 to 100 words) reading passages  
  • One question per passage (yes, you read that right – only ONE question per reading passage!) 
  • The reading level stays high, even if passage length is shorter 
  • Questions will be grouped by type (including words in context, form, structure and sense, command of text evidence, inferences and transitions) 

The new digital reading and writing test has more of certain question types, but fewer of others. The new test: 

  • puts more emphasis on “vocabulary in context” 
  • has more “natural science” reading passages 
  • adds “poetry” questions, but only a few 
  • eliminates the historical text “Great Global Conversation” reading passages  
    • no longer asks questions about idioms or commonly confused words 
    • eliminates the “no change” multiple-choice answer from Writing questions  

Changes to the Math Section

Current Paper SAT Math

  • Math (no calculator): 15 multiple choice questions, then five grid-in questions 
  • Math (calculator): 30 multiple choice questions, then eight grid-in questions  
  • Topics include algebra, advanced math, problem-solving & data analysis, and other math topics 

NEW Digital SAT Math

  • 44 questions total, including 33 multiple choice and 11 student-produced answers
  • One math section divided into two modules 
  • Calculator use (own or built-in app) is permitted throughout 
  • New names for math topics: algebra, advanced math, problem-solving & data analysis, geometry, and trigonometry  
  • Changes to questions: word problems will have more easily understood language, more geometry and trigonometry, and fewer questions on percentages, probability, and data organization 

Sample Questions from Digital Practice Tests 

If you would like to see what the new test will look like, you can find sample digital practice test questions for the digital SAT by signing in to your College Board account and  downloading the SAT’s new “Bluebook” app.

Sample practice test questions for the new PSAT/NMSQT will be released by ETS in the summer of 2023.  


Tungsten Prep and our test prep tutors have closely studied the new test formats and are ready to help you and your students prepare for the new digital PSAT in October 2023 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. 

In Part III of the “SAT is Going Digital” – coming soon on our Blog we will offer advice on how your students, in all years of high school, can prepare for the new digital tests. 

We will share our insights on what we think your students should focus on:

  • Will there be a return to memorizing vocabulary words on flashcards? For some students, yes.
  • Do we recommend reading different passage types to increase knowledge of vocabulary in context? Yes, please!
  • Should your student bring their own calculator or use the in-app calculator for the Math sections?  It depends.
  • How can my student deal with the stress of knowing the tests will be “stage adaptive”? Practice tests, practice tests, practice tests. 

Learn more about how Tungsten Prep can help your student achieve their test-taking goals.  

Nancy L. Wolf