That’s right: starting Spring 2024, you can expect to take a fully digitized SAT. Instead of paper and pencil, anticipate using either a personal or a loaned device. Want to know more about the SAT’s new look? Learn more about changes (plus how to improve your digital score) here.
How Does The Digital SAT Math Differ From The Paper SAT?
Wondering how the new SAT might be different from the old? We’re going to demystify the transition from paper to digital. Here’s what’s new.
- Dislike, strongly dislike, or outright hate math? Great news! The digital SAT math section is 10 minutes shorter than its paper counterpart, streamlined from 80 minutes to 70.
- The new math section is 14 fewer than paper, totalling 44 questions: 33 multiple choice (MC) and 11 student-produced response questions. The ratio of MCs and student-produced prompts are still around the same: 25% student-produced, 75% MC.
- For those who don’t know, student-produced questions ask you to submit an answer rather than choose from a list of options.
- The digital math section also gives you more time per question. While the new test period is shorter, you actually have about 20 more seconds per problem – 01:59 per question with the old SAT, 01:38 with the new!
- Note: while 20 seconds may seem not all that important, on timed tests like the SAT, these seconds add up! Extra time is an extremely valuable asset.
While the digital SAT math section still follows reading and writing, the section modules are structured differently now. You’ll have two 35-minute math modules. Instead of a calculator and no calculator section, you’ll be able to use your calculator on both modules.
Before we move on, let’s talk a little bit about the digital SAT math section interface.
The digital SAT math section interface comes with a few tools you’ll find helpful.
- While you can still bring a calculator of your choice, the digital math section comes with a built in graphing calculator! You’ll also be allowed paper and pencil to work answers out by hand.
- Just like the old paper version, the digital math section comes with a reference sheet.
What Types Of Math Questions Does The Digital SAT Ask?
While the digital SAT math section may seem quite different, a lot is still the same. The digital SAT test is designed to test the same skills and competencies as the paper version, just in a new and improved format. Today, we’re going to cover exactly what’s gonna be on the new modules and review the basics.
Exponents & Radicals
You’ll need to know how to solve exponents and radicals on the digital SAT.
- Using the example above, exponents denote that the base (7) must be raised to the power of 3 – you have to multiply the number 7 on itself 3 times.
- 73 = 7 * 7 * 7
- 7 * 7 * 7 = 343
- 73 is equal to 343!
On the other hand, a radical asks you to find the nth root (the index) of the radicand (the number underneath the radical symbol). It’s sort of like a reverse exponent!
- Think of it like this: n3 = 27. What number, raised to the power of 3 (the index), is equal to 27?
- n * n * n = 27
- 3 * 3 * 3 = 27
- The radical here simplifies to 3!
While the basic concept shouldn’t be too much to get down, make sure you can apply this information to more complex problems.
Exponential Vs. Linear Growth
You’ll also need to know how to tackle exponential and linear growth and decay.
Linear growth occurs when the amount increases the same amount per unit of time. Say you get a piggy bank. Every Sunday, you put the $20 you earned for mowing lawns in the piggy bank. The money you’ve saved is linearly increasing. The piggy bank grows the same amount ($20) each unit of time (a week).
Exponential growth occurs when the amount increases by the same percent or factor per each unit of time. If you magically got an increase of 50% in your paycheck per week (week 1 – $20, week 2 – $30, etc.) the amount in your piggy bank would be exponentially increasing.
Linear and exponential decay are the same concepts as growth – just flipped. Instead of growing, the amount decreases.
The digital SAT math section will require you to fundamentally understand what growth and decay are. A possible question might ask you to analyze if a certain situation is growing or decreasing, and if that change in amount is linear or exponential.
An expression is a problem without an equal sign. Expressions involve one (or more) variables.
When factoring expressions, you can always double check by expanding your final answer! This means multiplying the parentheses together to see if you end up with the original expression.
Manipulating & Solving Equations
You’re probably already very familiar with equations. An equation is a problem with an equal sign, showing that both sides of the sign are equal in value.
Here’s a mistake I see a lot: remember to change the sign of a number and you move it to the other side of the equation!
Systems of Equations
Just like you’ll need to know how to manipulate one equation, you should also be able to manipulate a system of equations. A system of equations involves two (or more) linear equations that have a common solution (aka a common point where the equations intersect on a graph.
SAT word problems are based almost entirely on a written description – you won’t get any graphs, equations, or diagrams to help you out. To solve, you’ll need to translate the written problem into math terms.
Word problems might test you on an array of different skills. It also might help to visualize by drawing diagrams.
Another bonus with the digital SAT math – CollegeBoard promises to make word problems on the digital more concise, saving you an extra bit of time.
You should also be very familiar with all things lines and slopes. Here’s some simple tips:
- Perpendicular lines (intersecting at a right angle) will have opposite reciprocal slopes. This just means the slopes will have the opposite sign of one another (negative or positive), and the numbers on the top and bottom of the slope will be switched. Example: two lines with slopes ⅔ and -³⁄₂ will be perpendicular.
- Lines can be mathematically written with several different equations, the most useful being in slope-intercept form!
Lines are deceptively simple: you’ll also need to know how to find slope when a line isn’t in slope-intercept form, figure out equations from just a graph, and more. Be sure to practice and study up on everything line-related!
Quadratic equations! These contain at least one squared term.
On a graph, quadratic equations will form a parabola – that is, a symmetrical open U shape. The highest (or lowest) point on the parabola can always be found at its vertex: the center from which the parabola starts.
The SAT will ask you to work with quadratics (and their graphs) in a couple ways.
- Factor a quadratic (break the equation into parenthesis) or turn the equation into a perfect square.
- Find the maximum or minimum of a quadratic function – i.e. find the vertex.
- Find where a line intersects with a quadratic equation.
- Find the points where the graph of a quadratic intersects with the x or y axis.
To approach many problems involving quadratics, you’ll need to use the quadratic formula.
Your reference sheet on the digital SAT won’t help you out with any algebraic formulas, so it’s important to have these down before test day. Don’t want to hum through the meath section? Practice, as always, will help you remember essential SAT formulas.
Your digital SAT test reference sheet will equip you with some of the information you’ll need to tackle triangles. Make sure you have a good command of these concepts and how to apply formulas.
The reference sheet doesn’t give you everything: you’ll also need the pythagorean formula to solve many SAT triangle problems.
|The Pythagorean Formula: solves for the missing length of one side of a right triangle.
|a = short leg lengthb = short leg lengthc = hypotenuse length
Your test will ask you to find missing lengths of triangle sides, missing angles, and ratios between triangles. Drawing a quick diagram always helped me!
Circles on the SAT are probably my least favorite part of the test: circles make up a small amount of the test, but you’ll need to have a good grasp of all things circles. Here are some things you should have memorized (that the SAT won’t give you on the reference sheet).
Arc sector circumference
Arc sector area
On the digital SAT test, you’ll most likely get a diagram of a circle, then be asked to solve using any of the formulas on the reference sheet, or the two formulas we’ve provided.
Trigonometry involves (more) angles, and their ratio to lengths. You’ll need to use trigonometry for right-angle triangles and circles on the digital SAT. The reference sheet won’t help you at all with trigonometry – memorize the formulas we give you.
For triangles, you’ll need to know SOHCAHTOA. This acronym will help you remember how to find missing angles or sides of right-triangles.
For circles, you’ll need to understand the degrees and their radian conversions. To make it simple, radians are units of a circle equivalent to a degree measure.
Be sure to brush up on your basic trigonometry and conversions for your test day. I promise it’s not as hard as it seems. As a humanities major in college, trigonometry turned out to be one of my favorite sections in math class.
You may only have one or two questions about probability on your SAT – but these should be easy points for you! Probability is how likely something is to occur. To solve probability questions, make sure you understand fractions and basic math.
Try to solve this problem: I got 3/10.
Probability questions might try to throw you off you with extraneous information. Be sure to read your question carefully so you don’t get confused.
Not many students take statistics in high school – my school didn’t offer the class at all. Luckily, you don’t need a whole semester’s worth of experience to understand statistics on the SAT. You’ll need to understand just a few basic concepts:
- Scatter plots and histograms. You’ll need to draw information from a chart or diagram – you’ve likely covered this in your science classes.
- Reading tables, like the probability table above.
- Means (average), median (middle number in a size-arranged set of numbers), and mode (numbers that repeat the most frequently).
Many statistics problems just require a good grasp of how to apply mathematics. Keep reading: we’ll go over a problem in the next section to illustrate what a statistics problem on the SAT digital math section will look like.
Sample Practice Problems and Explanations
If you’re feeling lost, we’ll walk you through some of the concepts we’ve reviewed – and how to solve them. Try and solve these problems before checking your answer or reading the explanations.
Sample Practice Problem and Explanation #1
Let’s solve a question with exponent together! In this question, the exponent is involved in a function.
The digital SAT’s built-in calculator makes questions like these very easy to solve. Plugging in the equation into Desmos, you’ll find the y-intercept is (0,11). This makes solution A: (0,11) the right answer to this problem.
While it may be tempting to reach for the graphing calculator for questions like these, being able to solve this (and other SAT questions) using mental math is a very valuable time-saving asset.
In high school, I broke my calculator and had to use a Desmos for a couple months: I quickly found typing out equations on my laptop was very tedious and easy to mess up. I’d end up with wrong answers just because I mistyped one digit!
Here’s how you can solve this, without the calculator.
- Y-intercepts occur when x = 0.
- Plugging in 0 for x, any non-zero number (including fractions) raised to the power of 0 is one! Confused on why ¹⁄₁₂0 is 1? Read more about exponent rules and other concepts you need for the SAT here.
- So, g(0) = 11 * 1. Simplified, this means g(0) = 11. When x is 0, the y-intercept is 11! The answer is still A: (0,11).
You can see how much time you save yourself: try solving this question on paper versus with a graphing calculator like desmos. While the calculator is still an extremely valuable tool for you, try not to get too caught up using it on questions you could do faster by hand.
Sample Practice Problem and Explanation #2
As I promised, here’s a sample problem on statistics.
Let’s analyze the question: it’s asking us to compare the means (averages) of two data sets. Before we can compare, we have to figure out the means first. To find a mean, add the data points together, then divide by the total number of data points.
The mean of set X would be: (5 + 9 + 9 + 13)/4 = 36/4 = 9
The mean of set Y would be: (5 + 9 + 9 + 13 + 27)/5 = 63/5 = 12.6
Comparing these two sets of data, 12.6 (Y mean) > 9 (X mean). This makes B: the mean of data set X is less than the mean of data set Y the right answer. You might also be able to reason this out if you’re more comfortable with math.
Sample Practice Problem and Explanation #3
This last practice problem tests your understanding of triangles.
We’ll need to find the measure of a missing angle in a triangle – you shouldn’t need to draw a diagram for this problem. Our reference sheet tells us the number of degrees in a triangle is 180. If we subtract the known angles from 180, we’ll be left with the solution.
Angles B and C added together are: 52 + 17 = 69 degrees.
180 – 69 = 111 degrees. Angle A must be 111 degrees, making answer D correct!
Study Tips For The Digital SAT Math Section
The digital SAT math section covers a lot of content in just 44 questions. With no way of knowing the exact questions you’ll be getting on the new digital SAT, there’s still a lot you can do to maximize your score. Here’s a few effective tips we have for the digital test.
Learn How To Use The Graphing Calculator Tool
The digital SAT math’s built-in calculator is an important tool that you should not miss out on! Best of all, you can practice using the calculator online now, completely free.
Being comfortable with the calculator interface is crucial! Instead of wasting time during your SAT test trying to figure out how to waste Desmos, practice using the calculator at home. You’ll also gain a better understanding of what the calculator can do for you, and which questions to reach for the calculator on your actual test day.
Especially if you aren’t comfortable with trigonometry, lines, or graphing, this calculator can make the difference in missing a question or getting a point. Using the calculator can also help you double check.
Take Full Practice Exams
Taking full practice exams is one of the most beneficial methods of preparing for your test. Not only will taking down a full practice test help you build confidence, it also highlights the areas you need to focus more on.
A full practice exam can also help you understand time management and overall test layout. Applying your knowledge to actual questions has the added benefit of improving your retention in the long run.
Memorize Important Formulas
Memorize all the formulas we’ve given you that the SAT won’t help you out with. If you can, I’d also recommend memorizing common formulas (like, area and perimeter) that are already on your reference sheet.
Having memorized important formulas will save you a bit of extra time and boost your understanding of the concept as a whole.
Never, ever cram for a test! Especially one as important as the SAT: the SAT could make or break your chances of getting into your dream college. Stanford says cramming risks forgetting and lowering your scores. Want to get into Stanford? Don’t cram for the SAT!
Instead, try creating a study schedule leading up to your test day. Learn more about when to start studying here, and how to build an effective study plan here. If you really, really can’t avoid cramming before the big day, we understand(ish). Here’s our tips for cramming before the SAT.
Prepare For The Digital SAT With SoFlo
Did one of our practice problems not make sense? Unfamiliar with a concept, need to refresh your understanding, or simply want to score your best on the digital SAT section? Individualized tutoring with SoFlo is one of the best ways to improve your performance on the SAT.
We customize your lessons to you – so you can finally nail those concepts and problems that you’ve always had trouble with in class. Tutor with SoFlo to improve your digital SAT math score.
Preparing for the SAT might seem extremely intimidating. While it is a lot of work, you can break the process down by following our tips and guide. We can’t promise for sure, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the digital SAT might actually be easier than the old paper version.
Stil, practice, practice, practice! Your teachers and coaches are right: practice makes perfect. With all the information we’ve given you today, you’re more than ready to start studying for the digital SAT math section.
About The Author
Lauren Richards is a sophomore studying narrative at the University of Southern California. She scored a 1510 on the SAT, and in her free time, she enjoys snorkeling, hiking, and all things outdoors.