How Different Is the New Digital SAT?

The SAT is currently in the process of transitioning from its current format to a new digital version. Here are some key facts about the difference between the two tests. For more information about the timeline of the change and how it might impact your (or your student’s) prep process, please check out this post.

Digital vs Paper

The new SAT will be digital, unlike the current version, which is mostly administered on paper. Some schools have administered computer-based SAT School Day exams. This is not the same as the new digital SAT. The current computer-based SATs have been the same types of exams as the paper tests, whereas the new digital SAT has significant differences. 


The new exam will be about 2 hours and 15 minutes long, including a break, compared to the current exam, which is about 3 hours and 20 minutes, including breaks.


The current SAT has 4 sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (no calculator), and Math (Calculator). The new digital test will have just two sections: Reading/Writing and Math. The new Reading and Writing section includes a lot of topics that would have been tested in the current Reading or Writing and Language sections. Questions about grammar and punctuation, reading comprehension, and charts and graphs are all combined into one section. 

Computer Adaptive

The new test is computer adaptive. Each section is divided into two modules. Depending on how you perform in the first module, the second module will be easier or more difficult. According to College Board, “being adaptive means we can fairly and accurately measure the same things with a shorter test while preserving test reliability.”

Passage Length

Currently, the Reading and Writing and Language sections are passage-based, with multiple questions coming from each passage. The new Reading and Writing section does not follow this format. Each individual question is based on its own short passage.

No-Calculator Section 

There will no longer be any no-calculator Math section. A calculator will be allowed on the entire Math section. (There is a built-in calculator, or a student may bring their own.) There are, of course, more differences than we have included here! This is just an overview of the changes to the test. 
SAT timeline
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