What Is The Digital SAT?

As students are beginning to prepare for the digital SAT in Spring of 2024, questions are being raised by both parents and students alike about what exactly the digital SAT is, and what features the digital SAT will have. 

The digital SAT is comparable to the paper SAT in the following ways: for starters, both tests grade students on their performance and comprehension of topics according to the traditional 1600 point scale. Both tests are also administered in a testing center, or at school—even though it is an online test, the digital SAT cannot be taken at home. However, the Digital SAT offers many new and interesting features that the paper SAT does not offer.

In this blog I will be focusing our attention to the various built-in tools the digital SAT has to offer. But, I will quickly list some of the new features worth mentioning:

  • The Digital SAT Will Be Adaptive: Each section (reading, writing, and math) will be divided into two modules. The first module (i.e., the first half of the section) will have a set of questions which the student will answer. Now, the interesting thing about the digital SAT in this respect is that, after completion of this first module, student performance on those answered questions will determine the questions asked in the second module (or the second half of the section). Thus making the digital SAT adapt to the student’s specific needs and testing style.
  • Less Time Testing: Instead of the 3 hours of testing spent on the paper SAT, students taking the digital SAT should expect only 2 hours of testing. 
  • Scores Delivered Faster: The scores of the digital SAT will be sent to students and educators in a matter of days rather than weeks (compared with the paper SAT). This means that decisions regarding colleges can be made quicker for both educators and students.

With a brief overview of the contents of the Digital SAT, I will now go on to explain how the built-in tools differ from those tools given on the paper SAT. Then, I will go into greater detail about what those tools are and how one can adequately prepare themselves to use the tools to their advantage.

Do You Get Different Tools On The Digital SAT v. The Paper SAT?

The short answer is, yes; at the very least those taking the digital SAT will have a wider range of tool options compared to the paper SAT. The digital SAT offers students this wider range of tool options with the hope of helping each student achieve their best scores with an equal playing-ground. The digital SAT will also allow students to use the built-in calculator feature for the entirety of the math section, not just during the calculator-only section as was typical of the paper SAT.

What Are The Built-In Tools On The Digital SAT?

  1. The Digital Timer: The digital SAT will provide students with an optional ‘count-down’ clock, which students can choose to hide if they wish. However, this tool can be quite useful for regulating one’s time while taking the test. The digital timer feature will also notify the student when they are running out of time.
  2. The Reference Sheet: The digital SAT will provide students with a reference sheet for each math question during their math module. The reference sheet will consist of formulas to help guide the students in the right direction.
  3. The Elimination Function: The digital SAT will provide students with an elimination function that will help to narrow down the correct answer during the test. While taking the test, students can choose to “eliminate” (cross out) particular answer choices which they do not think are correct to help narrow their focus between the answer choices that they think might be correct.
  4. The “Mark For Review” Function: Another neat function the digital SAT will be providing students with is the “mark for review” function. This function will allow students to put a marker on those questions that they wish to return to. This tool will be useful for time management and organization as a student can quickly refer to the precise question that they wanted to return to at a later point.
  5. The Annotation Function: The digital SAT will also allow students the ability to highlight and annotate key phrases or concepts in the reading section of the test. This will allow students to quickly refer to those main ideas or points instead of having to re-read until they find the particular point of interest.
  6. The In-App Calculator: Students taking the digital SAT will no longer need to bring a physical calculator with them to their testing day. However, students who would like to use a test-approved calculator instead of the calculator provided digitally through the bluebook testing software are welcome to. The calculators provided as a tool within the digital SAT will also be graphing calculators, so there will be no difference (aside from the physical) in the built-in calculator and those previously approved physical calculators. The built-in calculator will have the same capability as a physical calculator.

How To Take Advantage Of The Digital SAT Tools

  1. Practicing Using The Tools Through Bluebook: Before it’s time to take the test, students are certainly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the various tools beforehand. Thankfully, Bluebook (the software that the digital SAT will be taken on) allows students to practice using these features by taking practice tests available on the program.
  2. Learn How To Use Desmos Graph Function: Perhaps one of the harder tools to master is the graphing calculator that is built-in to the digital SAT. Students should practice using the calculator and its graphing function (through the practice exams given through bluebook) so that they can be comfortable with each feature come testing day.
  3. Annotate Efficiently By Creating Your Own Code Words: One way to take advantage of the annotation tools given to you on the digital SAT is to create shortcuts for yourself that will save you time. Having code words that resemble a key (like those displayed on maps) can be helpful in quickly referring to a main idea, or a detail worthy of noting, and so forth.
  4. Take Advantage Of The Digital Timer: The digital timer may be the tool that will get overlooked to a degree, however, I think that this tool can be exceedingly helpful for ensuring that one manages their time while taking the exam. Students can time themselves while taking the practice exams and figure out the exact amount of time they need to spend on each section before moving on.

Advantages Of The Digital SAT v. The Paper SAT

With the new built-in tools, and other features mentioned earlier in this post, the digital SAT proves to be highly advantageous to its future test-takers. Students should certainly familiarize themselves with the tools and their mechanics so as to get the most out of them. 

Compared to the paper SAT, the digital SAT appears to be a clear improvement. The only caveat I could see would be if someone preferred the use of a physical calculator to the digital, or if some student preferred to have physical tests in general. For the first concern, this seems to ultimately not be a problem, as the digital SAT allows any student to bring a physical version of an approved graphing calculator to the test. As for the preference to a physical test generally, this is certainly the downfall of the digital SAT. But hopefully the benefits of the new digital SAT outweigh this drawback!

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About The Author

Dahlia is a senior at Florida State University majoring in both philosophy and psychology. In her free time she enjoys filmmaking and photography, backpacking, and cycling.

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