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The SAT is now digital for the first time. One test expert says the new format makes the test easier.

Kristina Puga   

The SAT is now digital for the first time. One test expert says the new format makes the test easier.
  • A new digital SAT is now being offered for the first time.
  • The test is shorter, adaptive, and tests real-world skills.

In March, the first US high school students took the SAT exam — digitally.

This switch to digital comes as many top-tier colleges, such as Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown, are reversing their decision to be exam-optional — a trend that started during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a recent study suggests that test scores actually do predict academic performance and college success — better than high school grades.

Shaan Patel — the founder and CEO of Prep Expert, with more than two decades of experience with the popular college entrance exam — told Business Insider the test will be significantly different than in the past. It may even be easier.

The digital SAT has some content changes

For starters, the digital test will be shorter and adaptive. That means the test will get harder as the student progresses through it, but the level of difficulty will depend on how they performed on earlier questions.

According to Patel, the digital SAT is also more "student-friendly" than previous years.

For example, in the past, there was a section where students couldn't use the calculator, but on the digital SAT, Patel said a calculator could be used on all the questions.

"There's even a digital calculator built into the testing application, in case you don't have a graphing calculator," Patel said.

In addition, the reading passages are a lot shorter in the new exam. The essay section has also been dissolved, and the grammar questions have now been integrated with the reading section.

"So it really tests your reading and writing together, which I think will be a welcome change for most people," Patel said.

Plus, there are new question types where students read notes and decipher what is most relevant.

"I think that's a super useful skill in the real world where you get a long email, and you have to sift through the important data," Patel said.

He added students no longer have to memorize difficult, obscure vocabulary words that were once required.

The digital SAT is easier

"The new question types are actually testing students in a much more real-world manner than the previous versions of the SAT," Patel said. "Overall, this test will be more relevant to real-world skills. So, I'm optimistic the changes will be good."

He said, in that regard, the SAT will be easier.

"But, I want to be careful about saying it's easy," Patel said. "I don't think it's easy because what's going to happen is with the adaptive testing structure…you are going to see harder questions as you go along, even though you're going to see fewer questions."

Prep for the SAT shouldn't change all that much

Patel recommended that all students download the College Board's Bluebook app, where they can take practice tests and familiarize themselves with the new adaptive feature.

"They must get used to not letting their brain become overused at the end of the test since that is when most students will encounter the hardest questions," Patel said.

But the most important piece of advice remained the same: prep early.

"I usually recommend getting started in 10th grade so that by the time the fall of 11th grade rolls around, you'll be ready to knock the PSAT out of the park," Patel said, "because the PSAT, especially this new digital PSAT, is more similar to the digital SAT than ever."

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