As we head into the fall and a new school year, the leaves won't be the only things changing. These next several months mark the last chance students have to take a paper SAT with December 2023 as the last date for the paper SAT and March 2024 as the start date for the first digital sat (dSAT). That means now is the best time to get informed and get ready. Juniors and seniors who plan on sending test scores as part of their college applications will need to understand the new features of the digital SAT and their options when it comes to whether they should take it, when to take it, and how to prepare for it. So, as the transition to dSAT approaches, we offer this guide through the changes and the preparation process.
A Closer Look at What Has and Hasn't Changed
What is the same? Changing to digital doesn't mean taking the SAT at home at the click of a button. Students will still have to sit for the test at school or at a local testing center. Accommodations, like paper testing, will also still be given to those who apply and qualify. Questions remain multiple-choice with a similar exception as the paper SAT—there is one math section where students enter answers into the app much like they used to grid-in answers on a paper answer sheet. Finally, the dSAT will also be scored out of a maximum of 1600 points with subscores for both the Reading & Writing as well as Math section still using an 800-point scale.
What is different? The switch from paper to digital isn't all that's changing. There are several new features to the test worth noting.
- Device Details: To take the dSAT, students will have to download an app onto their own device or a device they borrow from a test center prior to test day, then use the app to take the test and to submit their scores online once they're finished. Because the app saves students' work as they proceed through the test, they don't have to worry about losing that work if there are glitches, such as spotty internet access or a surprise computer crash. Both laptops and tablets are permitted and should be fully charged before taking the test since students won't be able to see their battery power while using the app and aren't guaranteed the ability to recharge.
- Tools: While using the testing app, students will have access to a timer to keep track of their time as they move through sections, an annotation tool to highlight and make notes on questions, and a markup tool to flag entire questions to return to for further review. There will also be a reference sheet of common formulas and a calculator provided for the math section. Unlike the paper SAT, the dSAT lets students use the calculator for the whole test. They can use the test's integrated Desmos graphing calculator or bring their own.
- Adaptive: An adaptive test is a test that adapts to the person taking the test. For the dSAT, a student's performance on the introductory module of a test section (e.g. Math) will determine the difficulty level of the questions in the second module of that section. The more difficult questions you can answer, the higher your score.
- Sections and Content: The dSAT has two sections (Reading & Writing, and Math). The Reading content has changed to include sentence completions, some poetry, and short passages (no more long passages). Students answer only one question per short prompt or passage. Now that Reading & Writing are combined into one section, there will just be one subscore for that section. Overall, the dSAT has fewer questions.
- Timing: Due to the adaptive nature, fewer questions, and shorter passages, the dSAT takes less time to complete. The new test takes a little over two hours (2 hours 14 minutes) while the old test took three hours.
A Guide for How to Select and Prepare for the Test
There are several factors that will affect a student's choice of test and preparation plan, including his or her preferred format (paper or digital), test (SAT or ACT), and testing time frame (fall, spring).
Format. If you already have a sense that you would prefer or perform better on one type of test than another, then you should make a plan to take your preferred test. If you're not sure what format is best for you, experiment. Take a diagnostic ACT, paper SAT, and digital SAT. Reflect on your results and your experience: Did your eyes get tired looking at the screen? Did you like the shorter digital test? Then, make a choice on your own or after consulting test prep professionals, like A+, or a counselor at your school.
SAT or ACT: Aside from the typical reasons a student might choose one test over another, such as scoring significantly better on one test's diagnostic or avoiding the Science sections of the ACT or the more difficult critical thinking skills of the SAT, students should also consider the pros and cons of paper vs. digital. If you know you will want to take tests in the fall and the spring, do you really want to prepare for two different versions of the SAT? If not, you should focus on preparing for and taking a test that's not changing: the ACT. If the SAT is a stronger test for you, but you don't want to take it digitally, start preparing to take one in the fall and one in the winter before the spring changeover to digital.
Timing & Preparation: Since practice makes perfect, you might be wondering how to practice taking a digital version of the SAT. Understandably, there hasn't been enough time to produce the same volume of practice materials for the dSAT compared to paper tests, but that doesn't mean students will be deprived of sufficient practice. A+ offers a free practice dSAT that you can take at our office or in the comfort of your own home. Click here to request your practice exam.
A+ Test Prep and Tutoring is Here to Help
With decades of test prep experience, A+ has been through SAT transitions before. We have been following developments with the newest changes to the SAT and are ready to support test takers as they choose and study for the test that is best for them. We will not only continue to prepare students for the paper SAT and ACT, but we will also begin to offer tutoring for the digital SAT this winter so students are ready to take it for the first time in March 2024. To start, A+ offers free diagnostic exams to help students determine their strengths and weaknesses as well as what test (ACT vs. SAT) they should prepare for in order to earn the highest score. Depending on which test is determined to be the best fit, a student will either participate in our SAT or our ACT test prep programs. Whatever path you choose, let A+ be the one to guide you.
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, we can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.