What Is The Digital SAT?


The Digital SAT is the latest version of the standardized test that’s been used for college admissions for 100 years.

Though the SAT has been around since the 1920s, it continues to be one of the best ways to showcase your intellectual aptitude. That being said, the College Board, which administers the SAT worldwide, has listened to test takers over the years and recently implemented a few key changes.


Once known for its number two pencils and scantron bubble sheets, the SAT now offers an online option, making it part of a broader shift to digital education and testing. Here are the reasons behind this shift, what you can expect from it, and how well it compares to the traditional in-person testing experience.

Evolution Of The SAT

You might be surprised to learn that the SAT evolved from a military IQ test originally created to identify which Army recruits were likely to become officers. Today, the SAT serves a similar purpose by assessing students’ readiness level for college.


Traditionally – and how I endured it – the SAT was only offered in-person with a 10-minute break in between each section. Currently, the in-person testing format takes just over two hours and covers reading, writing, and math, for a total of 154 multiple-choice questions. Conversely, the digital SAT is slightly shorter in length and has only 98 questions total.

So, why did the College Board create a digital SAT? The transition began with listening to input from recent test-takers and identifying a need to adapt the test to meet the needs of future test-takers. However, this transition was certainly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic when test administrators were forced to get creative with the testing environment.

All things considered, students do a lot more learning and testing online now. Plus, we’re seeing a general transition to – or addition of – digital testing options across all major standardized tests. The College Board chose to digitize the SAT to keep up with industry standards and will continue the evolution based on feedback and future technological advances.


It’s worth noting, though, that the digital SAT is currently only available in certain locations. While it was offered to students outside the US beginning in the spring of 2023, the official launch date in the US is Spring 2024.

what is the digital sat

Overview Of The Digital SAT

To be perfectly clear, the digital SAT isn’t just the paper SAT converted to an online platform. So, with the transition to a digital format, what can you expect to change?

What Will Be The Same?

Here’s what the College Board chose to retain in the digital SAT:

  • Measuring the knowledge and skills most important for college and your career.
  • Administering the test in schools or at testing centers with a proctor present.
  • Offering access to free test preparation and resources.
  • Supporting students who need accommodations on test day.
  • Scoring the test on a 1600-point scale.

What Will Change?

Here’s what you can expect to see for the first time with the digital SAT:

  • The ability to test on a laptop or tablet. (Note that a proctor will still be present on test day via the Test Day Toolkit).
  • Integration of adaptive testing – see more below!
  • Total length of the test will now be shorter (two hours vs. three).
  • Having shorter reading passages instead of a couple of long texts.
  • Being allowed to use your calculator on the entire math section.

Plus, if you don’t have your own computer to test on, one will be provided for you!

what is the digital SAT

Altogether, these changes to the SAT and the addition of an online testing option create a more secure, accessible, and equitable test structure while easing test navigability for students and streamlining scoring procedures for proctors. For example, while the digital SAT doesn’t require high bandwidth, the College Board worked with a handful of schools to ensure digital exams could be administered to students in rural areas.

One of the coolest new features of the digital SAT, though, is the integration of multistage adaptive testing, which has been used for large-scale digital standardized assessments for almost 40 years. With adaptive testing, the sets of questions you receive throughout the test “adapt” based on how you perform in the previous set of questions. Essentially, the SAT conforms to your skill level by selecting questions of varying difficulty from a bank of predetermined test questions. The better you do on the first section, the more challenging the questions will be in your second section.

Adaptive testing is preferred for standardized tests because it allows for a fair and accurate measurement of the same concepts in a shorter amount of time while retaining the reliability of the test. This figure demonstrates how adaptive testing is implemented during the test and contributes to your overall score:

what is the digital sat

While many students and test administrators are ready to welcome a full transition to the digital SAT, others aren’t so sure yet. If you’re concerned about relying on tech for your test score, keep in mind that errors can always arise on a paper test, too. There’s no real way to avoid 100% of the potential issues that might pop up. But the College Board is actively monitoring the testing process and gathering feedback to continue improving your experience on test day!

Related: College Entrance Exams 101: What To Know

Preparing For The Digital SAT

Preparing for the digital SAT isn’t very different from preparing for the written SAT. You’ll want to start the process early by planning out your timeline from now until your expected college enrollment date. Timing is the most important aspect of the college admissions process, and you’ll want to take the SAT well ahead of any admission cutoff dates.

Depending on how much spare time is built into your timeline, you may also choose to retest based on your initial SAT score. If you’re looking for ways to boost your score, we recently reviewed the best SAT test prep courses. We’ve also compiled a host of resources on preparing for college, from understanding the college admissions process to saving and paying for tuition. We know this is an exciting time for you, and we want it to be as stress-free as possible!

Once you’ve scheduled your SAT test date, I recommend taking a full-length practice test to identify your strengths and weaknesses. The College Board offers a test preview and four full-length practice tests in Bluebook, which follows the same time constraints you’ll encounter on test day. The benefits of practice tests are two-fold: they familiarize you with the digital testing experience and they help predict your score on the actual SAT.

And don’t forget that the College Board also partners with Khan Academy to provide students with free SAT resources and test prep. Touted as the most comprehensive SAT prep course available today, Khan Academy’s SAT course offers students a customized study experience to strengthen the areas that need the most work. That means you can prepare for the SAT using some of the best materials out there – all at no cost to you!

What Is A Good SAT Score? Strategies For Success

Final Thoughts

The digital SAT marks another step toward the digital age, matching what is commonly offered in other education and testing environments today. With the integration of adaptive testing, instant feedback, and enhanced accessibility, the digital SAT offers a promising glimpse into the future of education, where a fair, accurate, and secure testing process opens the door to higher education for all students.

Looking ahead, evolution of the digital SAT is likely to continue based on feedback, industry standards, and a desire to continuously improve standardized testing. However, new technology often comes with the need to navigate new challenges. As the digital SAT starts to arrive in testing centers near you, remember the resources available to help you navigate these changes like a pro.

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