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As of 2023, the SAT will be delivered digitally for international students, while the paper-based SAT is still available to students from the U.S. until the official transition in 2024.

Due to this digital transition, the test itself has undergone some significant changes that might affect your test preparation process. Here are the top 5 significant changes in our opinion:

Change #1: The test is now online

Since the test is now delivered online, you will have to take the SAT using College Board’s Bluebook Testing app. There is also no at-home testing option, as you will have to take the test at schools or testing centres.

However, the app itself is available from College Board, so you should definitely install it to get used to the interface.

Change #2: The test is now adaptive

This is the most significant change to the digital SAT. The digital SAT will now utilise a multistage adaptive testing (MST) methodology.

Reading and Writing SectionMath Section
Two-stage adaptive test design: one Reading and Writing section administered via two separately timed modules (Module 1 and Module 2)Two-stage adaptive test design: one Math section administered via two separately timed modules (Module 1 and Module 2)
  • Module 1: Students are given a broad mix of easy, medium, and hard questions.
  • Module 2: Students are given a targeted mix of questions of varying difficulties based on their performance in Module 1.

Since the digital SAT will be two-stage adaptive, your performance on Module 1 of each section will determine the difficulty of the questions on Module 2 of that section.You get an easier Module 2 if your score in the Module 1 is low, and a higher difficulty Module 2 if your score in the Module 1 is high.

This is the most significant change by far, because you can only get a high score if you get the harder Module 2. Therefore, getting almost all questions correct for Module 1 is very important.

Change #3: The test time is much shorter

The total time of the test is much shorter than before, 2 hours 14 minutes instead of 3 hours

  • Reading and Writing section will be shorter. The digital SAT will feature considerably shorter reading passages that reflect a broader range of topics.
  • Math section will be shorter. There will also be less wordy questions featured in the Math section.

In conclusion, you will have more time on average to answer each question. This does not mean the test is now easier, however.

Digital SATPaper-based SAT
Reading & Writing54 questions, 64 minutes
~ 71 seconds/question
96 questions, 100 minutes
~ 75 seconds/reading question
~ 48 seconds/writing question
Math44 questions, 70 minutes
~ 95 seconds/question
58 questions, 80 minutes
~ 75 seconds/no-calculator question
~ 87 seconds/calculator question

Change #4: The question format has changed

There’s no need to worry – the SAT Essay’s not coming back.

For the digital SAT, there is only one Reading and Writing section. The verbal section is no longer separated into two (1) the Reading Test, (2) the Writing and Language Test.

Additionally, from the sample question pool, we can see the following characteristics from the new question format:

  • Many shorter passages: The new verbal questions tend to have more shorter passages instead of long passages of the old SAT. However, these passages till maintaining the same level of rigor in terms of text complexity and grounding in academic disciplines
  • Less questions associated with the same passage: A single question is associated with each passage (or passage pair) instead of having several questions associated with a small number of long passages.
  • Wider range of topics: the range of topics is now much wider than before.

For the quantitative section, there is only one Math section replacing the separately timed no-calculator and calculator allowed portions of the paper-based SAT.

Additionally, calculators are allowed throughout the Math section, as provided by the test-taking app. Lastly, the average length of in-context questions (“word problems”) has been reduced.

Digital SATPaper-based SAT
Reading & Writing Section
54 multiple-choice questions, each includes a very short passage (passages may contain informational graphics) – 54 short passages, 1 question per passage
Reading Section
5 passages with 52 questions

Writing & Language Section
4 passages with 44 questions
Math Section
Calculator allowed throughout
33 multiple-choice questions + 11 student-produced response questions
No Calculator Section
15 multiple-choice questions + 5 student-produced response questions

Calculator Section
30 multiple-choice questions + 8 student-produced response questions

Change #5: There will be more opportunities to take the test

The SAT is now available to international students seven times a year instead of five. This gives you more opportunity to identify and address areas for improvement and to achieve your ideal score.

Is Prep Zone ready for the Digital SAT?


Prep Zone Academy’s SAT courses are fully updated to help you prepare for the digital SAT. Our academic portal has also been updated to provide digital SAT practice tests, similar to CollegeBoard’s testing solution.

Get in touch with us if you have questions about the SAT or anything else related to college preparation!

Related: Complete Guide To The SAT – Updated for the Digital SAT (2023)

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