A Comprehensive Digital SAT Prep Guide

Starting in Spring 2024, all students who choose to take the SAT will take the test in its digital format. The College Board will no longer offer the traditional paper-and-pencil version of the exam for any students. 

As a result of this change, students may be left wondering how the digital exam will be different and how they should go about preparing for it. In this comprehensive digital SAT guide, we will answer all your burning questions about the new version of the exam and offer tips and tricks to help you feel fully prepared on test day.

How Is the Digital SAT Different?

The SAT’s transition to a digital format will prompt a number of changes to the structure of the test, but the overall goal of the exam will remain the same. It is still a college readiness test designed to assess the knowledge and skills of prospective students hoping to start their secondary education career. 

The College Board has stated that the digital transition will create a better testing environment for students by making the test more clear and concise and capable of adapting to each student’s individual skill level. Digital exams will also be administered more frequently and with greater flexibility compared to the paper test.

Many aspects of the SAT will change with the move to a digital format. Students may be excited to hear that there will be a major difference in length. The traditional paper-and-pencil version of the SAT takes about 3 hours to complete (with an extra 50 minutes for the optional writing section). Students will be able to complete the digital SAT in just 2 hours and 14 minutes.

The overall structure of the exam will be different too. The paper version of the SAT includes 5 sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (with and without calculator), and the optional Writing test. The digital SAT narrows this structure down to only 2 sections: Reading and Writing and Math. Each section will be further broken down into 2 modules. All sections will feature less questions compared to the paper test, and the digital reading passages will be much shorter in length. Additionally, students will only be asked to answer one question per reading passage.

Perhaps the most notable change to the digital SAT is the adaptive testing feature. The goal of the adaptive format is to measure each student’s individual abilities more accurately by adapting the test based on their performance throughout. At the start, every student will receive a randomized set of questions. This will make up the first module of each section. Once they complete the first module, they will then receive one of two versions of the second module depending on their performance in the first. Students who perform well will receive a more challenging second module while those who score lower will receive an easier one.

The digital SAT will also include new tools that should make testing easier and more accessible for all students. These tools include a built-in Desmos graphing calculator (which can be used throughout the entirety of the Math section), a countdown clock, an online notepad, a math reference popout, and a mark-for-review feature. Students can choose to bring their own graphing or scientific calculators to use during the Math section as long as they appear on the College Board’s list of approved devices.

Another exciting change is the fact that students will be able to receive their scores much sooner when taking the digital SAT. With the paper test, students often had to wait weeks to find out how they did. The digital SAT will update students’ scores online within just a few days of the exam. This will undoubtedly ease some of the stress associated with sending college applications that require SAT scores, enabling students to meet early admissions deadlines and plan for retakes.

How to Prepare for the Digital SAT

Preparing for the digital SAT is generally similar to preparing for the paper version of the test. However, there are some additional steps to keep in mind. We have created a quick step-by-step guide to help students get started with their preparations.

1. Determine Your Target Score

Your target score is the score that you hope to achieve when you take the actual SAT test. This score should be high enough to gain admission at any of the schools where you will be submitting applications.

To determine your target score, make a list of the average SAT scores for admitted students at your top schools. The highest score on that list will be your target score because it should give you a high chance of acceptance at every school on your list.

If you want to be a truly competitive applicant at all of your top schools, you can aim higher than the average SAT score for admitted students. You may instead want to make a list of SAT scores for the top 75th percentile of admitted students. Achieving a score that is higher than a majority of other applicants should give you a better chance of acceptance and help you stand out.

2. Download the Bluebook App

Bluebook is the College Board’s official testing program. It is the platform you will use to take the digital SAT on your chosen test date. However, you should download the app early because it also contains SAT resources and study materials to help you with your preparations.

Click here to download the app to your device.

3. Take a Digital Practice Test

The Bluebook app offers 4 digital SAT practice tests that you can take to determine your baseline SAT score. Make sure you choose one that includes the adaptive testing format so you can mirror the actual test as closely as possible. It is also wise to take the practice test in a quiet environment in order to mimic the conditions you will experience on test day. You may want to time yourself as well to familiarize yourself with the length of the exam and how long you will have to complete each module.

4. Create a Study Plan

Once you know your baseline score, you can start crafting your personalized SAT study plan. To start off, find the difference between your baseline and target scores. The resulting number will tell you how much you need to increase your baseline to reach your target. This will be your guide when determining how much you need to study each week leading up to test day.

Here is a breakdown of how many hours you will have to spend studying each week to improve your baseline score by a certain number of points:

  • 0 to 10 points: 2.5 hours.
  • 10 to 100 points: 5 hours.
  • 100 to 150 points: 10 hours.
  • 150 to 200 points: 20 hours.
  • 200+ points: 40 hours.

Make sure to be realistic when creating your study plan. Take into account your other commitments like extracurriculars, competitions, and social events when determining how much time you can allot to studying each week. You don’t want to overwork yourself in the time leading up to your exam and wind up burnt out on test day.

Keep your normal study habits in mind as well. For example, if you know you have a tendency to procrastinate, try to start early and pad your schedule with extra so you won’t end up cramming in study sessions the night before your exam.

5. Choose a Test Date

It’s important to choose a test date that allows you enough time to prepare while still receiving your scores in time to send in your applications before deadlines roll around. Plan ahead and pick a date that lets you spread out your studying in accordance with your study schedule.

You can find the list of upcoming digital SAT test dates and registration deadlines here.

Studying Tips and Tricks for the Digital SAT

Use these studying tips to make preparing for the digital SAT a breeze.

Adapt Your Studying

While having a study plan and sticking to it is important, it can also be helpful to adapt your study sessions as you progress through your schedule. You should take practice tests periodically as you study to assess your progress and figure out where you may need improvements. Use this information to shift your focus and hone in on your weaknesses. 

Familiarize Yourself With the Bluebook App

As we mentioned, you will be taking your exam in the Bluebook app on test day. In the weeks leading up to test day, set aside time to explore the app and familiarize yourself with its layout and features. This will help you feel more comfortable on test day and enable you to make the best use of the new tools that the College Board has made available for students taking the digital SAT.

Enroll in SAT Prep Courses

If you’re still a little uneasy about preparing for the digital SAT, don’t worry! Prep Expert has you covered. Our extensive catalog of online SAT test prep courses includes everything from self-paced videos to fully interactive flagship courses and even weekend reviews to cover any last-minute study sessions. Taught by expert instructors who actually know how to make studying fun, these courses are designed to help you score your best by offering proven test-taking strategies and advice. 

Even if you already have your own study plan to follow, Prep Expert’s courses are a great way to review information, refresh your memory, or supplement your learning.

Browse our SAT catalog today to discover which course is your perfect fit or check out our Digital SAT Playbook, written by perfect scorer and Prep Expert founder, Dr. Shaan Patel.