Digital SAT format, positives and negatives


Beginning in Spring 2024, the SAT will transition from a paper format to being fully digital. The new test format is scored the same way and tests the same content, but is one hour shorter. 

Berkeley High School students took a digital PSAT on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 to prepare for the new format. Jack Mackey-Williams, a junior at BHS, found the PSAT to be a relatively positive experience. 

“I think it was good practice for the digital SAT coming up in the spring.” Mackey-Williams said.     Students will need to have either a personal or school computer, tablet, or iPad to complete the test. For the most recent digital PSAT, BHS provided computers to all students, but the College Board has also offered to provide computers to students that don’t have access. All devices need to have at least three hours of charge to complete the test. Consequently, schools don’t guarantee access to an outlet unless a student has testing accommodations that lets them test for longer than three hours. At tests, a technology coordinator will also be present to help.

Regardless of the device, students are required to download the custom application Bluebook before the test. This lets students “check in” to their test. Bluebook lets students flag questions to come back to, provides a countdown to let them know the remaining time, and has multiple tools including a built- in graphing calculator and a reference sheet for the math section. Students can still bring their own calculator and a pen or pencil. Scratch paper will be provided by the proctor to avoid any cheating. 

The digital SAT will still measure the same skills but in two hours and fourteen minutes, which is substantially shorter than the three hour fifteen minute paper SAT. In the English section, there will be fewer questions where each is tied to a shorter passage. 

Mackey-Williams took both the paper and digital SAT. According to Mackey-Williams, each had pros and cons. 

“The shorter passages in the reading and writing sections made it easier to comprehend,” said Mackey-Williams. “However, with the paper SAT you could really dive in and understand that longer passage compared to having a new short passage with a new topic each time.”

The digital SAT is also adaptive. This decreases the likelihood of cheating, because students may have entirely different test questions.  Both the reading and math sections are split into two modules. In module one the questions have a range of difficulties. If the student does well, the difficulty of the questions will increase in module two, and vice versa. An answer to a difficult question will increase a student’s score more than an easier question. Tesla Marsh, a junior at BHS, explained that the new style can introduce worries about whether test questions are too easy. 

“It does increase my test anxiety and make me overthink about whether I am doing better or worse based on the difficulty of the questions,” said Marsh. “But at the same time I think the idea of computer adaptive tests is more specific to a student’s level.”

The digital SAT also impacts students with accommodations. Students who originally required a scribe can now access dictation, a speech to text function on a computer. Students with braille accommodations now will also have access to headphones and a refreshable braille display. The zoom feature is available to all test takers, which aids students that need large print test accommodations.