top of page
  • Writer's pictureLearnCurious

Digital SAT FAQ

Updated: Feb 21

Frequently Asked Questions about the Digital SAT

The SAT is changing: the College Board has announced that in March 2024 students in the US and around the world will be taking a digital exam instead of the paper-based version of the SAT exam.

What is the digital SAT test?

The digital SAT is a standardized test that assesses a student’s abilities to complete reading, writing, & math problems under timed circumstances. This test is a college entrance exam administered by The College Board to high school juniors and seniors.

How is the digital SAT different from the paper-based SAT?


Total Time: 134 minutes (2 hours & 14 minutes) 180 minutes (3 hours)

Score Range: lower level range: 400 - 1580 400 - 1600

higher level score range: 400 - 1600

Verbal Questions: 54 verbal questions total (27 per module) 96 verbal questions

Verbal Time: 64 minutes ( = 1 hour & 4 minutes total) 100 minutes

32 minutes per module

Math Questions: 44 math questions (22 per module) 58 math questions

Math Time: 70 minutes ( = 1 hour & 10 minutes total) 80 minutes

35 minutes per module

New features to expect on the Digital SAT:

  • Students will have a highlighting tool to annotate the digital test and a flagging tool to mark questions for later review, as time allows.

  • Students will also have access to the Desmos browser-based graphing calculator tool.

    • Strategy note: Familiarize yourself with how to use Desmos, the free online graphing calculator tool that will be included in the resource suite provided for students to use on the digital SAT.

  • Students will be allowed to write on provided scratch paper. While scrap paper will be taken up after the exam to avoid questions being released, students will be allowed to use pencil or pen to do scratch work by hand.

  • Students will also have access to a digital annotation tool that will allow them to make notes in the test application itself.

  • Students will be able to view a test-timer at any time during their digital and can choose to hide it until the last five minutes of each stage.

  • Students will be able to use a special ‘elimination’ function to mark answers they have eliminated. This will strikethrough answers that students want to remember are incorrect.

  • Students will now have digital access to the same math reference sheet information that is currently available to students taking the paper-based SAT.

Specific, important changes to note from the paper-based SAT:

On the Digital SAT, ...

  • reading & writing questions are intermixed and are each now based on one short paragraph instead of grouped with longer passages.

  • the ‘Global Conversation’ passage has been removed.

  • writing questions will no longer test idioms and commonly-confused words.

  • there is no longer a ‘NO CHANGE’ option on verbal questions.

  • students will be able to use a calculator for all math questions.

  • imaginary / complex numbers are no longer tested.

  • students can input negative responses on fill-in-the-blank style questions.

  • math questions will no longer be linked to one another or share common information.

Who can take the digital SAT exam?

11th & 12th grade high school students.

How can students prepare well for the digital SAT?

Start early, take practice tests, and work with a tutor! Even a single last-minute session can boost scores on test day.

Working with a tutor is a great way to learn more about designing effective study plans. To contact a LearnCurious tutor, please visit

LearnCurious also offers a new study guide for the verbal modules of the digital SAT.

digital SAT study guide

When do students take the digital SAT?

The SAT exams are offered seven times each year, in March, May, June, August, October, November, & December.

Registration is required and can be completed at

Students must bring a government-issued photo ID on test day. Students can take the test as many times as they like, but, to improve control over which scores are submitted to colleges, LearnCurious recommends that students practice with full, timed tests administered at home or at a testing center.

Learncurious encourages students to begin preparing for these exams outside of school as early as possible. The College Board offers formal preparatory practice tests (the PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, & PSAT NMSQT) to 8th-11th graders that will also be making the switch to a digital version in 2023-2024. Other practice tests are also available, and the SAT itself can be taken more than once.

Juniors have more opportunities to take their SAT tests than seniors do. Starting the college entrance exam process in junior year (or sooner) helps students pace their senior year more comfortably and reduces the stress of their college application season, and can help them score better.

It is often too early in the process for sophomores to consider taking the SAT during the school year, but the summer between sophomore and junior year can be an opportunity for some high-achieving students to complete their first official SAT exam, provided they have taken measures to ensure that they are prepared and are familiar with all of the concepts that appear on the test.

When are the remaining SAT dates for this year?

Upcoming test dates can be found on the College Board’s website. The test is usually administered seven times per year: in March, May, June, August, October, November, & December.

When should students start preparing for the SAT?

With college admissions being so competitive starting formal test prep early is a good idea, especially if students are hoping to be accepted at a T20 or T50 school. Starting early, they get more exposure to the question types, they develop test-taking endurance, they are able to practice strategies they can use on test day, and they feel calmer about the big test when it feels familiar.

Students can now begin taking the PSAT as early as 8th grade, with the addition of the PSAT 8/9 to the College Board’s “SAT Suite of Assessments.” The PSAT tests have the same types of questions as the SAT, which are different from normal schoolwork. Seeing these question styles earlier and more frequently helps to assure that students have solving systems in place early and aren’t scrambling to learn about them later.

If you (or your child) are in 10th or 11th grade, not to worry, you still have time to prepare with a more compressed approach.

Note that registration windows close about 1 month before each test date. Some test centers fill up quickly. Be sure to register as soon as you know when you’ll be ready to take the real thing. If you’re not sure when the right time is, consulting a tutor can help.

Taking full-length, timed practice SAT tests outside the house (in a library or at a testing center) and reviewing results with a tutor is an excellent way for students to get practice with SAT question styles in an authentic testing atmosphere. The scores from these practice tests are nearly as valuable as the test-taking time itself, as they yield a ton of data useful to savvy students or tutors, yet they are never sent to colleges.

Will the PSAT be digital as well?

Yes. Students will begin taking the digital PSAT 8/9 and PSAT/NMSQT in autumn of 2023. Students will also be able to take the PSAT digitally starting in the spring of 2024.

Where do students take the digital SAT?

While the digital SAT can be taken on students’ personal laptops, it is still necessary for students to take the test in a designated testing facility. More than half of students who take the SAT take it for free on SAT School Day, when the test is hosted during the week by schools. Starting in spring 2024, schools will offer the digital SAT to students on SAT School Day.

Can students take the exam on their computer at home?

No. While a student may use their personal computer to take the test, the digital SAT must be taken at a designated school or testing site. Proctors will be present in each testing room to assist students with setting up the testing software and to ensure that the test is administered and supervised under the SAT’s standardization practices. This also ensures that students have knowledgeable help available should they encounter technical difficulties.

Will the paper version of the test still be available to students?

No. The College Board has announced that they are making a full transition to the digital exam. As of spring 2024, all students in the US who register for the SAT will take the digital SAT; however, some exceptions will be made for students with documented accommodations requiring pencil and paper.

How early in the morning is the SAT?

Most testing centers open at 7:45am local time and close their doors promptly at 8:00am. I recommend that students prepare test materials and plan their outfit and breakfast the night before so that the morning of the test goes as smoothly as possible and arriving early doesn’t create stress. Many students are now choosing to meditate on the way to the test to help prepare their concentration for the marathon they’re about to run. The test itself will begin between 8:30-9:00 am, after the proctor gives out materials and reads instructions.

How long is the digital SAT & how is it formatted?

The digital SAT exam is 2 hours & 14 minutes long.

It has 2 sections, each with 2 modules: the second module is adapted to fit students’ skills based on their performance on the first module of each section.

Reading / Writing

Module 1: 32 minutes, 27 questions

Module 2: 32 minutes, 27 questions


Module 1: 35 minutes, 22 questions

Module 2: 35 minutes, 22 questions

Test-taking endurance is an often-overlooked aspect of test prep. While the digital SAT isn’t as lengthy as the paper-based version of the test, students taking the SAT will still be testing for over 2 hours; those with time extension accommodations may not finish their exams for well over 4 hours. It’s important to begin training for these mental marathons early and often so that students have the capacity to focus through the entirety of the test comfortably.

What does the SAT actually test?

It’s important to understand that the Digital SAT exam is not based on any one school’s curriculum standards or teaching approaches; it’s designed to test students’ knowledge of what The College Board has included on the SAT test.

Let’s read that sentence one more time because it’s one of the most important things to know about a test like the digital SAT: it’s designed to test students’ knowledge of what The College Board has included on the SAT test.

Even if students have perfect GPAs and straight As, they may be thrown for a loop when first faced with digital SAT questions. This is normal. Students must know how to deal with unique question types and time constraints, preferably well ahead of test day. Advanced familiarity of the test’s format and question style for each section makes a huge difference for most students in their ability to score well and feel confident on test day.

In a nutshell, the Digital SAT tests specific skills in 3 subject areas: reading comprehension, writing & language, and mathematics.

Reading Comprehension: active reading, passage analysis & comparison, vocabulary, chart interpretation, & inference-making. Each of the passages will be roughly 50-200 words long. The Digital SAT has been formatted to have only one question related to each passage.

Writing & Language: English grammar, usage rules, rhetoric style, idea expression & analysis, & punctuation.

Mathematics: algebraic & geometric problem solving, data & diagram analysis, and as well as niche topics like trigonometry and pre-calculus, plus some elementary math concepts students that may not have used in a while (like calculating the mean, median, mode, & range of a data set).

Many parents, after looking at their students’ SAT practice math materials, have expressed their alarm to me regarding the difficult wording and advanced concept combination skills required to answer each question in the allotted time, which is usually 1-2 minutes per question. They’re right -- these tests are challenging, especially with respect to pacing. It’s helpful for students to learn when it’s strategic to speed up or slow down.

Who gets a time extension?

Allowances of 1.5x time or 2x additional time are available for select students with proper documentation and pre-planning, along with a host of other potential test accommodations. To qualify, a student typically must have a documented history of requiring individual time or special circumstances on assignments in school.

Students with 504 plans or IEPs are more likely to be given a time extension, but it’s not guaranteed. A separate application through the College Board is necessary, and the review process can be lengthy. Contact The College Board as soon as possible if you or your child would like to apply for a time extension or special accommodations for the Digital SAT.

Is the digital SAT scored the same way as the paper-based test?

The digital SAT is scored using the same overall 200-800 section score scale that the paper-based SAT is, and a section score of 740 on the paper test is reflective of a 740 on the digital test as well.


The digital SAT is structured using an adaptive system and is scored based on this adaptive model as well. Each section of the test will consist of two modules, and the second module’s questions and difficulty level will be based on how well a student does on the first module. So, if a student gets more questions correct in the first module, the second module will include more complex questions and align with a higher overall possible score range relative to a student who performs more poorly in the first part of each section and received second-module questions which are not as complex and do not allow a student to score as highly.

Why are the scores on my digital SAT practice test not precise?

The two dSAT verbal modules modules students take are scored together for a composite in the range of 200-800. The two dSAT math modules are also scored together on a scale of 200-800. A combined perfect score is 800+800=1600.

If a student takes the SAT more than once, do colleges see all of their scores?

The answer depends on the school. Each college or university has its own policy regarding which SAT scores they review with a student’s application.

Most fall into three categories:

- All scores from all tests are required.

- Only the highest-scoring sections among all of the tests a student has taken. This policy is called ‘superscoring.’

- Only the highest-scoring total score among all the tests a student has taken.

Note that students can find information about a school’s SAT score submission preferences on their admissions web pages or by calling the admissions office. (Ideally this call will include a few other well-researched questions that aren’t answered on the website. Many schools’ admissions faculty keep track of how many times a student reaches out directly).

Do colleges see any PSAT scores?

Most commonly no, unless you do well enough to qualify for a scholarship (and at that point, students likely want them to see). A few secondary schools routinely input PSAT results on student transcripts, but rest easy – a PSAT score is not an admissions criterion.

What about the ACT? Do students have to take both the SAT & ACT?

Some schools accept the ACT instead of, or in addition to, the SAT. If your targeted schools are in this category, you have to decide which tests to take and submit.

How do SAT scores compare to the ACT scoring scale?

The ACT is scored on a 1-36 scale. A perfect score is a composite score of 36.

Some students do well on both exams, while others show a performance preference on one or the other. Students’ PSAT, SAT, & ACT practice test scores can be helpful predictors when it comes time to decide whether to take both the SAT and ACT or commit to only one of them.

Many factors play into the decision: diagnostic results (SAT vs ACT diagnostic and practice exams are available here) , schedule availability (juggling hectic junior/senior year workloads & extra-curriculars), and even finances (there’s a fee for each time a student takes the exam). An experienced tutor can aid this navigation.

Why do students take the SAT?

SAT scores can be required by top-tier universities and colleges as a key component of their application review processes. While many institutions have shifted to being ‘test-optional’ and no longer require standardized test scores as part of their application package, many students still choose to take these tests and send in their scores to further round out their applications’ robustness and provide admissions review personnel with more data demonstrating students’ academic performance under pressure.

Note: SAT® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which is not affiliated with or involved in the production or endorsement of this post.


You may also be interested in...


LearnCurious has helped hundreds of students write & improve their college admissions essays!

About LearnCurious:

LearnCurious is dedicated to helping students improve their scores on college admissions tests like the digital SAT and ACT exams. Our goal is to provide high-quality practice questions written according to the latest formatting guidelines available.

All content presented by LearnCurious is thoroughly researched and tested by test prep experts and experienced tutors to ensure that it provides the most effective preparation possible to students studying for their college entrance exams.

We also offer private K-12 school subject & test prep tutoring as well as an annual writing scholarship! For more information, please visit

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page