The Digital PSAT is Here and the Digital SAT is Next

Now that the October PSAT is approaching, some families have been asking about the development of the digital PSAT/SAT.  Here’s what you need to know…

What’s Changing on the Digital Test?

While the introduction of a digital SAT represents an exciting inflection point, there are some fundamental elements that will not change. For starters, the exam will continue to be graded on the familiar 1600-point scale, and scores on the digital and paper formats will be interchangeable. This will help college admissions officers make apples-to-apples comparisons between students who submit old and new scores. More importantly, the digital SAT will largely test the same reading comprehension, grammar, and math skills that are found on the current exam.

Students will continue to sit for the exam at testing centers on designated test dates. When they report to test centers, they will bring laptops or tablets on which they will have downloaded a testing application. The app will include a variety of tools that allow students to highlight text, cross off choices, and even flag questions to review. The app will also feature a built-in Desmos-style calculator to assist with graphing. 

Beyond these features, what students may appreciate are the quicker score return and shorter testing time. Digital scores will be returned within a matter of days, not weeks; and the digital SAT will run for 2 hours and 14 minutes, which is more than 1 hour shorter than its paper/pencil predecessor. This shorter testing time is made possible because the exam will be a dynamic, or adaptive, instrument. Student performance on the earlier portion of the test will impact the difficulty of the questions they see later in the exam. So stronger testers will no longer spend up to an hour addressing easy questions they typically answer without great effort; and students for whom testing comes less naturally will no longer be tortured with dozens of very difficult problems they are unlikely to answer correctly. The adaptive instrument is designed to hone in on students' scores more efficiently, which will spare students considerable time.

How do I Plan for this? Who will be Affected by the Change?

Current Seniors: If you are a current senior in the class of 2024, none of this concerns you, because the tried-and-true paper/pencil test will be administered through December 2023.  

Current Sophomores: If you are a current sophomore in the class of 2026 the opposite is true: your entire experience with these exams will be digital, starting with this fall’s PSAT.

Current Juniors: It’s only if you’re a current junior that things get interesting. If you decide to take the SAT on the early side—anytime between this spring and next December—you will take the paper/pencil test.  As a matter of fact, the paper/pencil format will be available 4 times between August 2023 and December 2023, so early testers will have multiple opportunities to take the paper/pencil exam. In a typical year, students test early for any number of reasons, including an interest in prepping before eleventh grade academic pressures intensify, a need to provide official scores to coaches for athletic recruiting, or a belief that they are strong enough students to get the testing out of the way early. 

If you decide to test along a more traditional timeline, you will take the digital PSAT in October, followed by digital SATs between March 2024 and December 2024. Because the scores on these tests are interchangeable, there is no inherent advantage to taking one format over the other. In the end, students should choose their test dates (and test format) based on their schedules, availability, and level of motivation!

What about the ACT?

One last thing to keep in mind. Even with so much changing on the SAT side of things, the other test (The ACT) isn’t changing meaningfully. That means that juniors who are hesitant to take a digital test will have two ways to avoid computer testing—they can take the SAT earlier (as described) or they can take the paper/pencil ACT.  Even current sophomores will have the option of taking a paper/pencil ACT if they prefer a low tech format.

If you have any questions about digital testing or planning for the SAT/ACT, please contact us at 301-881-7700 or 410-532-9400.