Tutoring News Post
The New Digital SAT (DSAT) is Here: Everything You Need to Know.
If you prefer printed books, then you might also consider purchasing the Official Digital SAT Study Guide, which is due to be released on August 1st, 2023, but don't be surprised if the questions in this printed edition of the OG are the same as those from the 4 previously released Bluebook exams.
As of today, 4/8/23, the first round of digital SATs has already arrived for the March 2023 International exam (and beyond). If you're curious about the real reason for this change: the College Board has encountered huge problems with international exam security, including test leaks, cheating scandals, score delays, and cancelled scores, and the digital SAT promises to be far more secure than paper-based exams—though the College Board's promises about "every student" having a "unique test form" are surely more hype than reality, since most high-scoring students will likely see the same counted questions, although possibly in a different order.
Next will come the October 2023 Digital PSATs, the March 2024 US Digital SATs, and the March 2024 School-Day SATs (also digital), at which point a paper exam option will no longer be available anywhere — with the exception of students with accommodations, who will still have the option of paper-based testing.
College Board Frequently Asked Questions / Google Slides Presentation / DSAT Sample Questions
-The digital SAT has been shortened to just 98 questions in 2 hours, 24 minutes, including the 10-minute break — from 154 questions in 3 hours, 15 minutes on the current version of the SAT, or 3 hours, 35 minutes if you include the 5th, "experimental" section that is unscored. Students are allowed to bring their own laptop computers or tablets. Loaner devices (Chromebooks, to be specific) are provided for those who request them in advance.
-The exam requires internet connectivity, and is designed to pick up right where you left off if your computer crashes, freezes, loses power, or drops internet signal.
-Despite its somewhat deceptive name, the DSAT is NOT an at-home exam: you must take the digital SAT in an official, proctored College Board testing center, such as your local high school, on an official SAT test date.
-There are only 2 main sections: 1) a combined Reading and Writing section, and 2) a Math section — both about one hour in duration. Each section is composed of two modules, and the exam follows a "section-level adaptive format," where a student's overall performance on the first module of questions determines the difficulty level (easy or hard) of their second module of the same type. On average, questions in the second module are weighted 1.4 times as strongly toward one's score (worth ~700 points total / 350 per module) as questions in the second module (worth ~500 points total / 250 per module).
The 2 Reading and Writing modules are each 32 minutes long, with 27 questions per module — and each of the 2 Math modules 35 minutes long, with 22 questions per module, totaling (64 + 70) = 134 minutes of actual testing time. There is also a single 10-minute break after the 2nd Reading and Writing module. 2 (unidentified) questions from each module are experimental aka "pretest" questions—which means that they do not count toward your score. (Source)
-The College Board continues to promise that DSAT scores will be returned within "days instead of weeks" (source)—but despite these claims, scores currently take about 2 weeks to be returned. Additional features ("Testing Tools") include a countdown timer and a math reference page with common formulas (same as the current SAT), as well as Mark for Review, Annotate, and Zoom options.
-Unlike the current SAT, which has a Math no Calculator section 3 and a Math with Calculator section 4, a calculator is allowed for all math questions. You can bring your own approved calculator, or use the provided on-screen calculator from Desmos (iOS / Android / desktop). Student-produced responses aka "grid-in" answers include negatives, and up to 5 digits.
-Sadly, the Question and Answer Service currently offered for the paper-based SAT in March, May, and October has also been discontinued for the digital SAT—meaning that students are not given the opportunity to review the actual DSAT questions they answered on exam day, despite "Truth in Testing" laws in California and New York which require that the College Board must release at least 3 actual SATs per year. Instead, the College Board has promised educators that it will release 4 new Bluebook practice tests per year. The next batch of Bluebook exams can be expected sometime around October 2023.
-The Reading and Writing section has been altered significantly, from the current 5 long passages with 10 or 11 questions each, to much shorter passages from a wider variety of sources, including shorter, paragraph-style passages—with only one question tied to each passage.
Am I surprised to hear about these changes? No, not at all. I began tutoring the SAT during my freshman year at Harvard in 1998, and this is the 3rd time that the SAT has changed since then. Historically, the SAT has switched exam formats every decade or so: the test was altered in 2005 (to a 2400-point exam), then again in 2015 (back to 1600) — and now, the big switch to a digital-only format has been slated for 2023-24.
As usual, there has been a rush test-takers attempting to take the current paper-based SAT before it changes formats, given the huge amount of real practice exams available (70 official SAT exams and counting), versus the dearth of practice materials currently available for the digital exam.
Plus, despite the many conveniences and advantages of digital testing, let's face it: it's often easier to take a paper test than a computer one, so many students still prefer the paper-based exam, regardless of any difference in length. Staring at a computer screen while taking an SAT for 2 straight hours is an almost entirely different experience from taking a 3-hour, paper-based SAT, which is not only easier on the eyes, but also perhaps easier overall.
Finally, some current 10th graders are taking the DSAT as a sneak peak of how the October 2023 digital PSAT will look and feel, especially given that the 11th-grade PSAT is traditionally used as the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.