The College Board recently announced that the SAT will move away from paper and pencil tests in favor of a digital form starting in 2023. International students in the graduating class of 2024 will be the first cohort to take the digital SAT, in the spring of 2023. In the U.S., students in the graduating class of 2025 will be the first to take the digital test, in the spring of 2024. Eligible students may take the PSAT digitally starting in fall 2023. 

What should test takers expect?

The digital SAT is designed to be more flexible, easier to take, easier to administer, more secure, and to cover more relevant topics. The digital SAT is much shorter than its paper and pencil predecessor– lasting 2 hours and 14 minutes instead of 3 hours. On average, students will have more time to answer each question, prioritizing skills and knowledge, not test-taking speed. Students and educators will receive scores in days instead of weeks. 

What’s staying the same?

  • Both sections of the digital test (1) Reading and Writing and (2) Math measure similar knowledge and skills as their predecessors.
  • The digital SAT will be scored on the same scale as the paper and pencil tests they are replacing (i.e., 400-1600 scale).
  • The SAT and PSAT-related assessments will continue to be linked through a vertical score scale that allows students to track their progress.
  • Like the paper version, the digital SAT emphasizes vocabulary and writing. 

Will there be changes to the assessments?

  • Each assessment in the digital SAT is composed of two sections: Reading and Writing and Math. Students have 64 minutes to complete the Reading and Writing section and 70 minutes to complete the Math section.
  • The Digital SAT Reading and Writing section will have shorter passages instead of a few lengthy texts. 
  • Calculators are allowed throughout the Math section. Students may continue to use their own approved calculator on test day or use the graphing calculator built directly into the testing application. 
  • The length of word problems will be reduced.
  • The digital SAT will use a multistage adaptive testing (MST) methodology. This means that the test “adapts” to present questions more appropriate to a student’s performance level.

In light of these changes, how should students determine which test is right for them? To help you decide, we recommend you take a mock SAT and ACT and compare your performance on each test. However, if you find that you need more help making a decision, here are several factors to keep in mind about the ACT: 

  • It is an achievement test that measures the knowledge you have learned in school.
  • It comprises five components: English, math, reading, science, and writing. If science is one of your strengths, you might prefer the ACT.
  • The math component includes more advanced math concepts, such as trigonometry.
  • It has an optional writing component. Although optional, the writing component is often requested by a few colleges. Be sure to check the requirements of your prospective colleges.
  • If you prefer straightforward questions that are stated in a simpler format, the ACT may be a good option for you. The ACT is more of a curriculum-based test and one that you would be more likely to encounter in a class.
  • The ACT is scored based on the number of correct answers that you get, with no penalty for guessing.
About the author
Kristina Williams

Kristina is a Senior College Counselor at AcceptU. She received a BA from Binghamton University, an M.A from University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Duke University. Kristina has college admissions experience at Cornell University, in addition to more than seven years of higher education and teaching experience.

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