FAQs on the New Digital SAT

Just like in medicine, in the world of college admissions, there are generalists and specialists. I am a generalist. I know a lot about undergraduate admissions; what colleges are looking for, how to write the most compelling essays, and much more. But I am not a testing zealot, I don’t get involved in athletic recruitment and I would refer you to someone who is much more plugged in if you have concerns regarding learning disabilities.

For today’s column, I reached out to Perry Youngblood who is also an independent educational consultant, but he specializes in testing strategies and test prep. He has put together the wonderful primer below on the new digital SAT which will be released in March 2024.

Here’s the most updated information on the Digital SAT.

For several months we have known that a new SAT was coming effective March 2024, and we’ve known many of the characteristics of the new test including:

  • It’s a digital test entirely on the computer
  • It’s one hour shorter for a total of two hours and 14 minutes
  • Even with the reduced testing time, the reduction in the number of questions results in the SAT giving 63% more time per question than the current ACT (see the timing data below)
  • It’s an adaptive test, meaning that each of the two sections is divided into two modules, the first of an average level of difficulty and the second either easier or harder depending on how the student does on the first module.

Now that we’ve had a chance to look at released practice tests, what else have we learned that students need to understand?

A wider range of difficulty

If the second module of both the Reading and Writing (RW) and Math sections can be either easier or more difficult and the timing and number of questions are the same, the student who gets the more difficult Module 2 should expect to have to work faster to allow time for some more difficult questions.

More use of the calculator

In math, the student should expect a few problems of a higher level of difficulty than those on the paper SAT. Some of these seem designed to be solved with a calculator, while all the math questions on the paper SAT could be reasonably solved without a calculator. So, it’s important that the student become knowledgeable of most, if not all, of the capabilities of the included Desmos calculator.

Here’s the comparison of the timing between the tests:

ACT                             Minutes               Questions

ENGLISH                             45                                75

MATH                                   60                                60

READING                             35                                40

SCIENCE                              35                                40

TOTAL: 180 Minutes        215 Questions,       .84 Min/Question     

Paper SAT                 Minutes             Questions

Reading                                65                                52

Writing                                 35                                 44

Math – NC*                           25                                 20

Math – C**                            55                                 38

*NC – No Calculator

**C – Calculator

TOTAL: 180 Minutes           154 Questions          1.17 Min/Question 

Digital SAT              Minutes                    Questions

Reading/Writing             64                                  54

Math                                70                                 44

TOTAL: 134 Minutes           98 Questions 1.37 Min/Question

The Paper SAT had 39% more time per question than the ACT. The Digital SAT has 63% more time per question than the ACT.

Perry Youngblood has been tutoring for the SAT and ACT for 22 years. He has followed both these tests through several major changes. Along the way, he took on the GRE, which, like the SAT,  rolled out a shortened digital test in 2023. Earlier in life Perry did an engineering degree at NC State, managed technology change for a Fortune 100 tech company, and did consulting projects in Kiev and London. Deciding he wanted to work with students, Perry got certified to teach high school math, but prefers one-on-one tutoring. https://www.perryyoungblood.com.

 Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@bierercollegeconsulting.comwww.bierercollegeconsulting.com