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  • Beverly Brutzkus

The New Digital SAT is Coming in March 2024!

How is this test different?

Is your child ready?


 

According to FairTest, almost 2,000 U.S. colleges and universities allow students to decide whether they want to submit their standardized test scores with their applications. The University of California and the California State University systems remain “test-blind” meaning that scores are not considered for admissions. However, some schools that were test-optional during the pandemic now require applicants to submit a standardized test score (ex: Dartmouth College). Even at test-optional schools, a strong test score may help a student strengthen their application.

 

If a student decides to take the new digital SAT (DSAT), they should study and take practice-timed tests to learn what to expect, develop strategies, and build their confidence. They will need to allow about three or four months to prepare. I usually suggest that students use the summer before senior year to prepare and then take a test in the fall. If students are in AP Language or high-level math in 10th grade, they can try to take a standardized test as a junior. Free DSAT practice tests are available through the Bluebook app or Khan Academy.

 

Students can take a free practice exam for each type of exam, but then focus their study efforts on the DSAT or the ACT. Colleges do not have a preference, so use the exam that gets them the highest score!


TIP: Contact me if you want a chart that compares the scoring, timing, or features of the DSAT to the ACT.


Regardless of which standardized test your child takes, they should schedule the exam in advance and, if needed, register for accommodations which can take up to seven weeks to be approved!

 

Here is how the new Digital SAT is different than the previous paper exam:


1. The Digital SAT is taken on a computer.


The most obvious change is that the digital test is taken entirely on a Mac laptop, an iPad, a Windows laptop or tablet, or a school-issued Chromebook. When a student registers for the SAT, they will choose if they will bring their own device. If so, it must be fully charged, able to connect to Wi-Fi, run on an approved operating system, and have available free space. Students will need to download the College Board’s Bluebook App. If students need certain accommodations they can still apply to take the exam using a paper and pencil version.



2. The Digital SAT is about 45 minutes shorter.


The DSAT lasts only 2 hours and 14 minutes and has 98 questions. Students have 64 minutes to work on the Reading and Writing section (divided into two modules), and 70 minutes for the math section (also divided into two modules). There is a 10-minute break between the second Reading and Writing module and the first Math module. The paper SAT took three hours and had 154 questions (and the ACT has 215 questions!). Even though the DSAT is shorter, the scores are equivalent to the paper version.



3. The Digital SAT uses “adaptive testing”.


The DSAT adapts to each student's proficiency. Both the reading and writing sections and the math sections are divided into two modules. The difficulty of questions in the second module is contingent upon the student's performance in the first module. So, a student who scores well in the first half will have tougher questions in the second half. A student who struggles in the first half will have easier questions in the second part which may help their test-taking confidence. Students and colleges will not know which difficulty version a student took. Every student will have a unique sequence of questions to prevent cheating.



4. The Digital SAT combines the reading and writing sections.


The DSAT only has two sections: a consolidated reading and writing section and a stand-alone math section. The paper exam had four sections including reading, writing, math without a calculator, and math with a calculator.



5. The Digital SAT has shorter reading comprehension paragraphs.


Not only does the DSAT combine the reading and writing sections, but it also has shorter reading comprehension material than the paper SAT. The new reading sections are about a paragraph in length. Some question types are similar to the paper test (such as inquiries about the main idea, the author's purpose, grammar and punctuation, and vocabulary) but the test incorporates a variety of new question formats. Passages now cover a greater variety of topics and include poetry. Additionally, students will now have to answer questions that require them to draw conclusions from a provided fictional set of student notes.



6. The Digital SAT allows calculators to be used for the entire math section.


Now, students can use calculators throughout both modules, each containing 22 questions that emphasize algebra. In addition, the Bluebook App includes Desmos, a built-in graphing calculator that students can use if they do not bring their own. Practicing with Desmos is suggested. The paper SAT allowed students to use a calculator on only one of the two math sections.



7. The Digital SAT allows students to flag questions.


Students can “mark for review” questions that they want to return to later. This allows students to strategize since they can see on their dashboard what questions they skipped, answered, or flagged. There is NO penalty for guessing so students should answer all of the questions.



8. The Digital SAT has a countdown clock.


This digital clock will show students the amount of time they have left on each module. Students can hide the countdown clock at the top of their testing screen or show it anytime. Taking an online practice test will help students determine if this new feature is helpful.


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Remember that while a standardized test score MAY add strength to a student's college application, their grades, and rigor of coursework will always be more important to those who make admissions decisions. If your child decides to take a standardized test make sure they sign up in advance and arrive on time with scratch paper, a pencil, a healthy snack, and lots of confidence!


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