The Digital SAT: What Students Should Expect

The Digital SAT: What Students Should Expect

Written by Chris Hernandez

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This article provides an overview of the new digital SAT, discussing the features & benefits of taking the test in digital form so students know what to expect.

The SAT is one of the most widely accepted standardized tests for college admissions. With the rise of digital technology, the SAT has also become available in an online format. This article will provide an overview of the new digital SAT, discussing the features and benefits of taking the test in digital form.

We will also explore the potential challenges of the new digital platform. Read on to learn more about how the digital SAT can help you prepare for college admissions. And finally, we’ll explain what students can expect on test day.

What Does the SAT Going Digital Really Mean?

The SAT going digital means that students will no longer take the paper-based tests. Instead, they will take the digital SAT on a laptop or tablet using an exam application developed by the College Board. Students will still take the test in a proctored, in-person environment at school or a testing center. The exam application will need to be downloaded on the device before test day, and students can use their personal or school-issued devices.

Key Differences between Pencil & Paper and Digital SAT

The College Board has announced that the SAT will be going digital. However, it is important to note that the term “digital” does not mean that students will take the tests online at home. 

Instead, the digital SAT will still be taken in a supervised, in-person environment at school or a testing center. Students will be required to download an exam application developed by the College Board onto their laptop or tablet prior to test day. Both personal and school-issued devices can be used.

The question is, what exactly will change? There’s much to know about the move from analog to digital. Let's explore the key differences to look out for with the revised SAT format so that you can prepare accordingly.

Will the Basic Format Change?

The new digital SAT will retain many of the same aspects as the pencil-and-paper version, such as evaluating the same fundamental skills, being scored on a 1600-point scale, requiring you to take the exam at an official testing center, and allowing extra time or assistive technology if approved for accommodations. 

However, there are several significant changes to the new test that you should prepare yourself for. To help you out, here are the six major differences between the current and new SAT versions.

#1. Pencil and Paper to be Replaced with Computers

  • The SAT will be administered on a computer, and you can use a laptop or tablet that you own or that you've borrowed from your school, family, or friends. You can also bring your own mouse and keyboard.
  • If you plan on  bringing your own device, ensure it can connect to Wi-Fi. It must also be running approved operating systems and have a certain amount of free space available; specifications for individual devices are available here
  • Finally, you’ll have to download the Bluebook testing software and ensure your device is fully charged when you arrive to take the test.
  • You may request a computer issued by the College Board at least 30 days before the exam date.

#2. No more “No Calculator Math Section”

The digital SAT format allows you to use a calculator for the entire Math section, and provides an onscreen calculator if you don't already own one.

#3. SAT to Become “Adaptive”

The SAT exam is getting a makeover. It will now consist of two sections:

  • Reading and Writing, and Math. 
  • These sections will be divided into two modules each.
  • The questions in the second module will be tailored to your performance in the first module. 

This adaptive format will make the exam more personalized and improve its ability to assess your skills accurately.

#4. Fewer Sections make the SAT Shorter

The new digital test will be much shorter than the current pencil-and-paper exam. 

  • With fewer sections and a more adaptive format, the digital SAT will take only 2 hours and 14 minutes to complete, allowing you more time to answer each question.
  • In the Reading and Writing section, passages will be shorter, and you'll have to answer only one question per passage. 
  • Additionally, the test will feature more direct and concise questions, allowing you to concentrate better on each question and have more time to answer it.

#5. Results Available Sooner

With the new digital format, you will receive your SAT scores within a few days, rather than waiting for weeks.

  • This means you'll have more time to decide which scores to send to which schools.
  • You can take the SAT later and still meet college admission deadlines.
  • Additionally, if you intend to take the SAT multiple times to achieve better scores, quicker scoring will benefit you by reducing the waiting time before deciding on another attempt.

#6. Improved Security

With the pencil and paper SAT version, the College Board may cancel the scores of all the students who took the test at the same time and place if it is discovered that a test taker's paper form has been compromised.

However, the upcoming online SAT will provide more security measures. Each student will receive a distinct digital test form, which will discourage answer sharing and reduce the likelihood of cancellations.

What to Expect on Test Day

It may be worth noting that pandemic safety procedures may still be in place at some test centers, and it might be a good idea to bring a mask with you and practice social distancing at all times. If you feel sick on test day, please stay home and contact customer service for a full refund.

Doors Open at 7:45 a.m.

Arrive on time on test day and check your admission ticket for your arrival time and the address of your test center. If you're late or absent, you can reschedule.

Testing Starts Between 8:15 and 8:45 a.m.

You'll log into the center's Wi-Fi and open the BluebookTM application, which will guide you through instructions. The test will begin when you enter the start code, and you can move back and forth between questions in a module and review your answers until time expires.

The Digital Testing App

BluebookTM is a custom-built app for the digital SAT that has many features that you'll find useful.

During the test, you'll have access to a set of tools, including a reference sheet and a calculator for Math, and an annotation tool to highlight text or leave yourself a note on the Reading and Writing Section. You can also mark for review any questions you want to come back to later.


You will have a 10-minute break during the test between test sections. You can take an additional break if you need to, but you'll lose testing time.

While on a break:

  • Leave your device open; don't close the top.
  • Your ID will be checked every time you enter the testing room, so, keep it with you at all times.
  • If you brought a calculator, it must remain on your desk during breaks.


You'll likely be done before noon. The test will submit automatically, and you'll have time to complete your submission after the test.

Testing Devices

You can take the digital SAT on a wide range of devices, including your own laptop, iPad, Windows tablet, or school-managed Chromebook. You must download Bluebook onto your device before test day, and complete a quick exam setup.

Keep in mind:

The College Board will collect and hold mobile phones and other prohibited electronic devices during the test administration, including during break periods. If you're seen using it, your scores can be canceled, and the device may be confiscated.

Bottom Line

If you have any concerns about how the switch-over from the Pencil-and-Paper to Digital SAT will affect you, fear not. Amikka Learning is fully prepared and ready to help you achieve your goal. 

Amikka Learning's tutors scored in the top 1%, went to top universities, and then became masters at teaching the SAT/ACT and other college readiness courses.

They offer students an unlimited amount of resources to help them retain the course content, including study guides, practice exams, access to our self-paced courses, and much more.

Amikka's courses are highly personalized based on your’ goals, learning styles, and current placement. They provide daily reports to maximize student progress.

The tutors are nurturing because non-anxious, guided learning yields optimal growth. They allow students to learn at their own pace, review topics multiple times, and then ask questions when they feel ready.

Furthermore, the Amikka Learning tutors are data-driven and make weekly tweaks to students’ personalized courses based on their progress to ensure that their goals are met.

Contact Amikka for a free consultation!

Written by Founder
Chris Hernandez

Christopher Hernandez, the founder of Amikka Learning, couldn’t afford expensive SAT tutoring so he spent hundreds of hours studying on his own.

After improving over 400 points and attending an Ivy League school he realized how unfair the playing field was with tutoring: no matter how smart you were, if you couldn’t afford tutoring you were stuck.
His dream was to change this.

He began tutoring for the SAT and quickly realized that he was a gifted tutor. His students were loving his program and improving very fast.

Fast forward 8 years, Amikka is a leader in the education industry and has helped thousands of students get into their dream schools.

If you’d like a free consultation for 1-on-1 tutoring schedule a call with our team here.

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