How Teachers Can Help Students Prepare for the New Digital SAT®

Earlier this year, College Board announced that the SAT would be transitioning to a digital format. International students will begin taking the SAT online in 2023 and American students will begin doing so in March, 2024. Before exploring how to prepare students for the new digital SAT, let’s first talk about what it is.

What exactly is the digital SAT

For nearly a century, the SAT has been used to determine the college readiness of high school students. It has undergone many changes over the years, but none have been greater than the current move to a new SAT test in a new digital format. 

Recently, many universities have become “test-optional,” meaning they do not require SAT scores from students in order to gain admission into their schools. Priscilla Rodriguez, College Board’s VP of College Readiness Assessments, has noted this as a big reason behind the change: 

“Colleges have made the SAT an option, so we want to make it a good option.” 

Ms. Rodriguez continued to say how the new SAT test will make accessing the exam easier for students, connecting them to scholarships, work programs, and college opportunities.

What are the changes in the new 2024 digital SAT

To best understand how teachers can help students prepare for the new digital SAT, it’s important to first understand how it will differ from the current version.

The Digital SAT will be shorter

Currently, it takes three hours to complete the pencil and paper exam. The new SAT test, however, will only take two hours to complete.

The test will be adaptive

One reason for the shorter digital SAT is because it will adapt to student progress. The difficulty of the second part of the test will be determined by how well students do on the first part of it. The better a student performs on the first part, the more challenging the second part of their exam will be.

Reading passages will be shorter

Another reason new digital testing will take less time is because of shorter reading passages. The new SAT test will combine the reading and writing sections, giving 54 questions in all, each with a very short passage.

Calculators will be allowed for the entire math section:

Overall, the math section of the SAT will not change very much, except for one thing: calculators will be allowed for the entirety of that portion of the test. In fact, a calculator will be embedded into the digital SAT, itself.

Scores will be released faster

One of the most noteworthy benefits of the new SAT test going digital is that students will receive their scores within a matter of days, rather than 2-6 weeks. This will limit the anxiety many students feel simply waiting for results. 

Reports will have more information

The SAT, for educators and admissions officers, has always provided insight into how ready a high school student is for college coursework. The new SAT will prioritize the relevance of tested questions but will continue testing knowledge and skills that matter most for college and career readiness. Test results will include more information for students, too, connecting them directly to scholarships, work-study opportunities, and two-year college programs.

How Can You Prepare Your Students for Each Skill Area for the New Digital SAT

Understanding the expected changes with the new SAT test is important, but so is understanding how teachers can help students navigate the new digital format. We asked three long-time SAT tutors for recommendations on exactly how teachers can help students prepare for the new digital SAT, and they didn’t disappoint with their suggestions. 

New SAT Test Prep Strategies

Here are some tips for teachers to prepare students for SAT exams in their new digital format:

  • Digital prep is the way to get ready for a digital test. A product with thorough concept explanations online is helpful for the SAT because the concepts are the same and the technology is similar.
  • So far, College Board has released 15 practice questions per subject in the new digital format. Study these questions and focus on the skills they cover.
  • College Board is striving to make digital SAT questions more relevant. However, the domains of the assessment will stay the same, so use prior SAT exams in your new SAT test prep, too.

Verbal: Reading and Writing, Combined

What to expect on the Verbal: Reading and Writing section of the digital SAT:

  • One of the key differences between the new SAT test and the current version is that the reading and writing sections will be combined into one verbal section. Studying the 15 questions the College Board has released will help students get used to the new format before test day.
  • Many of the concepts will overlap with those on the current SAT, but they’ll be in shorter formats. Instead of several long passages with questions, students will encounter questions paired with very short passages.
  • For the verbal section, have students practice understanding words in context. Questions related to context clues make up a large portion of College Board’s released questions, so this skill is bound to be tested.

Math

What to expect on the Math section of the digital SAT:

  • Practicing with digital products is a great way to get a feel for the subtle differences between answering math questions on paper vs. answering them online.
  • Students will have access to a calculator for the entirety of the digital SAT math section. This means they will need to practice extensively with a calculator, becoming completely familiar with it by test day.
  • Students should become comfortable with using a calculator on the SAT but should avoid relying on it. Remind students that calculators can use up a lot of time, and most of the math can be done faster by simply jotting it down on scratch paper.

Conclusion

The SAT may have a new digital format, but it remains a great option for high school students. With a review of College Board’s released questions and consistent practice with a rigorous, digital resource, teachers can make sure their students are ready for test day. For a fantastic digital resource, check out UWorld’s online SAT test prep!

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