The Digital SAT and You

by Josh Goreczny, MAT and Hoon Kim, Ed.M 
October 9, 2022

Why is it happening?

The College Board provided an overview of the new changes and claims that the new Digital SAT will be more equitable, “secure, easier to administer, and more relevant” for all stakeholders. 

When is it happening?

The Digital SAT will be mandatory for all US SAT test takers by March 2024 whereas the Digital PSAT will be mandatory by October 2023.  

Old Exam New Exam
Paper based test at test center
Laptop at test center
Four (4) sections: Reading, Writing Grammar, Math No Calculator, Math Calculator
Two (2) sections: Reading/Writing, Math Calculator
Three (3) hours
Two (2) hours
Both Reading/Writing and Math sections will ADAPT based on performance from first half of questions
Old Exam New Exam
Literature, History, Sciences
Literature, History, Humanities, Sciences
Standard English Conventions, Expression of Ideas
Standard English Conventions (Form, Structure, Sense and Boundaries), Rhetorical Synthesis, Transitions, Vocabulary
Heart of Algebra, Advanced Mathematics, Problem Solving and Data Analysis
Algebra, Advanced Math, Data Analysis, Geometry, Trigonometry

What Changes Should I Expect?

(1) SAT is going DIGITAL.  Whether on the student’s own laptop or on a school’s desktop, the exam will be fully conducted online at the testing site. The digital SAT exam will NOT be conducted at home, as of this time. Students will log onto the school’s wifi, upload the Collegeboard’s proprietary software, and utilize the software’s functionalities including testing timer, reference formula sheet, annotation, and highlighting for review. 

(2) SAT exam is SHORTER. The integrated Reading & Writing section will have a total of 54 questions (4 experimental) split up into two equal sections of 27 questions each. The Math section will have a total of 44 questions (4 experimental) split into two equal sections of 22 questions each. With one ten minute break in the middle, the entire experience will take just a tad over 2 hours in all compared the current 3.5 hours for the paper based SAT.

(3) But every question will be given a longer time to complete. On average, students will have about 90 seconds to complete each question. This is an increase of about 40% more time per question than the current paper-based SAT exam. 

(4) SAT is section ADAPTIVE. Within each subject area, students will take a harder (or easier) second section depending on their performance in the first. We believe that student performance in the first section, therefore, will be much more important at the onset so that the score will be capped at a minimal score. Hypothetical example: students who score 14 or more questions correctly in the first Math section will then have an adaptive second section where their score will be capped at, say, 620 minimal score

(5) Reading and Writing Sections are in ONE integrated section. Currently, from our research, the ratio is much more skewed to reading than writing, with about 22 Reading and 5 Writing questions in each section. Though there is a lot less emphasis on grammar concepts, the variety and difficulty has remained the same. 

(6) Reading and Writing passages are SHORTER (150 words) but more varied. Gone are the days of long 750 worded essays to sift through. Students will encounter 54 short 150-worded passages in the domains of literature, humanities, history and sciences. From our observations, science topics form the majority of the passage types, followed by humanities, history and literature. Note that literature types also include poetry in the Digital SAT.  

(7) Math problems will have LESS Data Representation (from 29% to 14%) but MORE Geometry & Trig (from 8% to 18%). This primarily has to do with time. Compared to the ACT, which is considered a “speedy” test, the newly designed Digital SAT will have less data-based Math problems that take up more time. Similarly, the Digital SAT will have less word problems as well, with over 65% of all questions posed as more direct “straightforward” math problems. It will imperative that all students have competencies in pre-calc or trigonometry to properly prep for the new Digital SAT as well. 

(8) Math section will allow an ONLINE graphic calculator. Hello Desmos! Students will have access to an online Desmos graphing calculator. There are plenty of opportunities for students to learn this handy software including during school or via test prep classes. The online calculator mirrors the handheld graphic calculator with some unique nifty features. 

(9) Score results will come back within DAYS, not weeks. Theoretically, Collegeboard will return the test scores within 1-3 days. This will bode well for students looking for their score results as they try to meet college application deadlines This is overall a positive thing. 

(10) ACT-Digital SAT Concordance will remain in effect. Current 2018 SAT-ACT Concordance table is a bit outdated, but the Collegeboard promises that there will be a new concordance table with the ACT exam. It is our opinion that any concordance between the two exams is a good thing, since students and colleges will be able to gauge their skillset appropriately and comparatively. 

(11) Students with accommodations can take the paper-based exam or the digital exam, but will need to do in-school rather than a weekend exam. The Collegeboard remains committed to students with learning disability or accommodative needs. The only caveat is that students with accommodation will need to take the test in-school day, rather than on weekends. Further, they will take a non-adaptive paper-based exam that will be slightly longer with a more questions. Specifically, students will encounter 66 Reading/Writing integrated questions and 54 Math questions for a total of 2:44 hours. 

Currently, the Collegeboard is inviting a select few number of students from different States to test out the new Digital SAT, so we’ll have a better grasp of its development as more data gets fed into the system. 

How will the Digital SAT affect my test preparation and college admission chances?

The only resources from the Collegeboard can be found on their website, which includes a short-form paper-based practice set, an online Digital SAT practice test, and a comprehensive overview of the new changes. 

We will keep you informed of any and all changes as this becomes clearer in the months ahead. Pittsburgh Prep will keep you up to date in all things test prep, academic tutoring, and college consulting, as well as our exciting new developments as we complete our new curriculum for the Digital SAT. Sign up to our newsletter today and let us know how we can help you prep for the upcoming Digital SAT. 

For school counselors, please contact and we’ll be happy to share our growing resources, and conduct a webinar on the new Digital SAT for your students.