Digital SAT Update

Posted on 11th April 2023

The Digital SAT was launched for international students on 11 March 2023, making obsolete the bubble sheets and number two pencils we have associated with the test for so long! Students taking the first digital test received their scores on 22 March, and we have the latest info on the test experience and how the Digital version of the SAT differs from its paper-based predecessor.

How does the Digital SAT compare to the ACT?

Colleges accept either the SAT or the ACT, so ‘which test should I take?’ is a question we answer frequently. Now that the SAT has gone digital, our advice is: For a student to suit the ACT, they should be:

  • Reasonably quick across all sections (the ACT is much more time pressured than the SAT)
  • Competent on the English sections and fairly strong in Maths, as the hardest ACT math questions are quite quick and difficult
  • Confident in science, as it makes it easier to get used to the ACT science section

Generally, STEM students studying A-level maths, who are also quick and confident readers, will suit the ACT. Other students may be better suited to the SAT.

We have a Diagnostic Test that can assess to which test students are better suited, here:

We recently updated our Diagnostic Test to take into account the changes of the Digital SAT, and we are finding that most students are being recommended the SAT. Furthermore, students typically sit SAT tests in schools, but they sit ACT tests in test centres that accommodate other types of testing also. We have noticed in recent months that students sometimes encounter issues at ACT test centres, like last-minute cancellations, so for many students, the Digital SAT seems like the best fit.

Additionally, the timing on the Digital SAT seems far easier on the SAT than on the ACT, and some students who find that their scores are plateauing on the ACT due to time pressure might consider switching to the SAT. 

How did students find the Digital SAT experience?

Our Academic Director Dan Escott reports, as far as student experience, he has heard only good things about the Digital SAT launch. Students must take the Digital SAT at a test centre (typically a school), but bring along their own laptops to sit the test. All students Dan worked with said it was easy enough to bring their laptops and take the Digital SAT, and they did not encounter technical difficulties with the test. 

The test questions seemed to be generated from the same content as the available Digital SAT practice tests, but the questions about that content were different and unique. This points to the test question writers creating several questions for the test question bank based upon one passage, study, or other similar source.

How have the Digital SAT score reports changed?

Regarding the scoring on the test, on the score reports for the previous, paper-based version of the SAT, a student could view the number of questions they got right and wrong in each section. However, on the Digital SAT score reports, this information seems to be a bit more opaque: students are shown this data in percentages and a blocked graph indicating how they did. So, at this point it is difficult to have insight into the score scaling process (ie, the process through which the number of questions a student gets right and wrong are translated into a section score out of 800), and how it compares to the same process on the paper-based SAT. We will definitely be keeping an eye on this as it progresses! 

How can I prepare for the Digital SAT?

To prepare for the Digital SAT, you can use the College Board’s blue book app. On test day, students use the same app to log on and take the official test.

You could also take a course or private tuition with UES; we have created a new SAT curriculum for the Digital SAT, based on Academic Director Dan’s extensive research. To help you decide between the Digital SAT and the ACT and answer any questions you may have about choosing a test, test prep, or the US applications process, you can book a free call with one of our Founders here.

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