In 2022, the College Board announced that the SAT will soon be administered exclusively on a computer. The new digital format of the standardized exam will begin in March 2023 for international students; U.S. students will begin taking the digital SAT in March 2024. After the transition, pencil-and-paper tests will no longer be offered.
The change is a welcome one for many test takers, but how will the new format affect your test prep? One strategy is clear: if you’re planning to take the digital SAT, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking the right kind of practice exams. Let’s take a deep dive into digital SAT practice tests so you’ll be prepared for the online version of the exam.
The Importance of Digital SAT Practice Tests
One crucial aspect of studying for any standardized exam is to take full-length practice tests that closely mimic actual test-taking conditions. This will help you get acquainted with the testing environment and format. The more comfortable you are with these conditions, the less anxiety you’ll have on the actual test day.
Taking high-quality practice tests will also provide you with a more accurate prediction of how you’ll score. Plus, you’ll get a clearer sense of which areas you’ll want to concentrate on during your test prep so you can improve your results.
So if you’re planning to take the digital SAT, you’re best served by taking official digital SAT practice tests. You can then familiarize yourself with the types of questions you’ll find in the two sections of the test (Reading and Writing is one; Math is the other) and the length of time you’ll devote to each section. You can also get acquainted with Desmos, the onscreen graphing calculator provided during the Math section, and develop a sense of how the SAT adapts to your individual skill level as you advance from module to module.
Where to Find Digital SAT Tests
You know you’ll want to take digital practice tests that emulate the most current version of the exam. But which sample exams will give you the most accurate representation of the new digital SAT?
Your First Stop: Bluebook
The closest you can get to taking the actual SAT is the full-length practice exams in Bluebook, the College Board’s online testing platform. The four available practice tests provide you with a sneak peek of the interface, format, and scoring of the online test, so they’re a useful tool as you prepare for the new digital format. Even better, the Bluebook practice SATs are free!
In addition to full-length exams, Bluebook also offers previews of individual questions from the actual SAT. Even these are useful as you’re trying out the new digital interface and learning what kinds of math problems and reading prompts to expect.
To access the practice exams, download the free Bluebook Exams app. You’ll want to install the program on your laptop or tablet rather than on your phone so you can best approximate the experience of taking the digital SAT.
If you do not have a device at home and need to take practice tests and the actual SAT on a tablet or laptop provided by your school, you may need to ask permission before downloading Bluebook to a campus device to complete practice tests. Seek out your school’s official test administrator if you need support.
If you’re requesting to borrow a device from the College Board because you won’t have access to a tablet or laptop on testing day, you can still practice beforehand by downloading Bluebook to any device you have access to in the meantime, whether it’s borrowed from a friend or family member, a device in the school computer lab, or a public computer (e.g., at your local library). Again, you may need to ask permission before downloading the app to a device you don’t own.
Khan Academy Official SAT Practice
Since 2015, the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide SAT prep resources. These free resources include a course designed to acquaint you with the different skill sets tested on the digital SAT. For example, you can explore the different levels of SAT Math topics (e.g., problem-solving, algebra, and geometry) and Reading and Writing questions, from grammar and argument to connecting ideas or texts.
The course provides reading materials, video tutorials, and practice questions as well as lessons and test-taking strategies designed to help you better understand what to expect on the new digital SAT. Khan Academy’s Official Digital SAT Prep also offers diagnostic quizzes and a full-length test to prepare you for the online version of the test. The company will continue to update and expand its study resources as we get closer to the official rollout of the new format.
The Digital PSAT
The College Board will begin offering digital versions of the PSAT in fall 2023. The digital PSAT will be comparable to the digital SAT in terms of format. So if you’re planning to take the SAT as a junior in spring 2024, you can preview the interface by taking the PSAT the previous year.
Khan Academy hosts digital PSAT practice tests as well, so if you’re trying to maximize your preparation, consider taking those sample exams and reviewing the lessons and explanations provided before moving on to the digital SAT practice tests.
Other Helpful Digital SAT Prep
Full-length practice tests are your best resource for acclimating to the new SAT’s digital format. But you can supplement your preparation with less comprehensive practice from both official and unofficial sources.
The College Board’s Digital SAT Sample Questions and Explanations
Although not a full practice test, the College Board has provided a free resource online that includes actual questions from the new digital SAT as well as explanations of the answers. The PDF includes 15 questions from the Reading and Writing section followed by 18 questions from the Math portion, so it’s a helpful miniature preview of what to expect on the test itself. The downloadable guide also offers in-depth explanations of the correct answers so that you can develop effective techniques for thinking through each type of question.
Barron’s Digital SAT Preview
Published in September 2022, Barron’s eBook Digital SAT Preview: What to Expect + Tips and Strategies provides an overview of the digital SAT. You can also find one full-length practice test with a scoring guide and answer explanations. Just be aware that these questions may not accurately reflect actual questions that appear on the digital SAT because they were developed by authors at the test prep company and not the College Board.
This short eBook is free and available from Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, and the publisher’s website.
Kaplan’s Digital SAT Prep Plus 2024
Available as a trade paperback or an eBook, Kaplan’s Digital SAT Prep Plus 2024 contains two full-length practice SAT tests and links to three tests online that were written by Kaplan writers. It also offers various quizzes, practice questions, strategies for taking the digital test, and an online tool to plan out your test prep. The textbook currently costs $37.99 if purchased from the publisher, but prices may vary elsewhere, so be sure to check online and in-store retailers if you’re interested in purchasing this resource.
Can I Use Paper Tests to Prepare for the Digital SAT?
The College Board suggests that if you’re planning to register for the digital SAT, you should not take paper-based practice tests to prepare. That’se because the paper practice tests currently available are based on a different version of the SAT, which is longer (three hours instead of just over two), has longer questions (e.g., longer reading comprehension passages), and is divided into three sections rather than the digital SAT’s two. So if you’re looking to optimize your test prep, focus on working through digital practice tests rather than paper versions.
The primary exception the College Board makes is for those students who do not have easy access to a computer for practice tests. In that case, the College Board website has made nonadaptive PDF versions of full-length digital practice tests available. They won’t fully mimic the digital testing experience, but they are still excellent study resources for your test preparation.
That said, if you’re just looking to get into test mode, drill specific topics, and get some extra practice, reviewing previous versions of the paper SAT can still be helpful. Stick with official tests from the College Board and Khan Academy because those are the gold standard when it comes to familiarizing yourself with how questions will be worded. We also suggest using practice tests only from the past five years so that the type, style, and wording of the questions will be closer to what you’ll see on the digital format.
Ignore any questions that you know will no longer show up. For example, the new digital SAT will no longer test your reading skills with passages from historical documents. They also won’t ask you to determine whether an idiomatic phrase is written correctly (e.g., whether it should say as a means through versus as a means of), and they’ve eliminated prompts that assess your ability to discern homophones and commonly confused words, such as affect and effect or waist and waste.
Digital SAT Practice Tests with Accommodations
If you are approved to use accommodations when taking paper standardized exams, you’ll receive the same or additional accommodations on the digital SAT. Some accommodations may even be unnecessary because of the new format.
For example, if you’re approved to have a human reader for paper and pencil tests, you can use a screen reader for the digital SAT. If you use large-print exam forms, you’ll be able to use the zoom feature in Bluebook on testing day. And if you’re approved for extended time or any kind of breaks (e.g., extra and/or extended breaks), you’ll receive similar accommodations on the digital SAT.
When it comes to practicing for the new SAT format with accommodations, if you’re approved to use assistive technology (AT) on the SAT, such as screen readers (e.g., ChromeVox, JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, or ZoomText Fusion), you should complete your digital SAT practice tests using these same programs. It’s important to make sure your AT apps are working properly before the big day and adapt accordingly if you realize any special configurations are necessary.
To move through the digital exam interface, you’ll use the same commands you use while applying AT to browse the Web. Just be sure to start your AT software or device before opening Bluebook or any other platform you are using to take practice tests. Note that if you use web-based AT or browser extensions, these may not work properly during practice or actual digital SAT tests, so you may need to consider an alternative.
If you will require accommodations that enable you to take the digital SAT on a paper form, the College Board provides four free official SAT practice tests in PDF format that you can download and print out. These paper-based practice tests are not adaptive, as the digital SAT will be, and the digital SAT paper form is longer than the test that’s administered digitally. But these sample exams will give you a good sense of what your test-taking conditions will feel like.
If you are approved for a braille version of the SAT, contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) or the SSD coordinator at your high school to request practice tests.
What if I Prefer the Paper SAT?
If the idea of taking the SAT on a computer worries you, remember that you still have time to take the paper-based version! Administration of the digital test does will not begin until March 2024 for U.S. students, so if you’ve been taking practice tests on paper or just feel more comfortable with the analog format, you can still register for the current version—and even take it multiple times if you’re trying to improve your scores. As long as you earned your scores within the past five years, almost every college will accept them, so you can take the paper test this year even if you’re not applying to universities until 2024.
Our guide to free paper-based SAT practice tests is the perfect place to start if you’re looking to prepare for the analog SAT.
How to Use Digital SAT Practice Tests
Now that you know where to find official digital SAT practice tests, you’ll need to know how to make best use of them.
Take the First Practice Test
First, you’ll want to take a full-length test to get acquainted with the format and questions. Simulate test-taking conditions by taking the digital practice exam in a quiet, well-lit room. Avoid distractions, and adhere to the time limits for each module so you can replicate the experience of the actual SAT.
Diagnose Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Next, reflect on your scores to determine where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Note which sections you excel in and struggle with (i.e., whether you’re stronger in Reading and Writing or Math), but also pay close attention to the individual types of questions where you scored well or need improvement (e.g., whether you need more help with algebra than geometry or with argument than syntax).
Because the College Board partners with Bluebook, you can use these resources together to identify which questions you’ll need to study to improve your performance. First, you’ll need to create a free account with the College Board and then log into Bluebook with your College Board credentials. Then, after you complete a Bluebook practice test, you can sign into the College Board site to access your scores on each section and module so you’ll know which areas you’ll want to focus on as you continue your SAT prep.
Examine the Exam Questions and Answers
After you’ve finished your first practice digital SAT and diagnosed areas of improvement, carefully review the questions you missed and the ones you were uncertain about. Read through the answer explanations so you can better understand how to solve that type of question.
You can use Bluebook and Khan Academy in tandem to analyze your incorrect answers. Log into your Khan Academy account using your College Board username and password. Then, use Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice to work through practice questions, peruse articles, and view videos that will help you make progress on the specific sections where you need to make the most improvement before test day.
Take Another Practice Test
After you’ve drilled the sections and skills that initially stumped you, take another digital SAT practice test. Work through it as you did the first, simulating the test-taking environment. Then, repeat the steps above, noting whether and how much you improved and using your test-prep resources to learn additional tips and strategies for approaching each type of question.
Avoid Taking Practice Tests All at Once
As you repeat this process, you should notice that you’re progressing each time. But you’ll want to devote some time and effort to studying in between each practice test. So pace yourself; don’t try to cram all your practice tests into a single week or even a single month.
Instead, think about how many practice tests you have access to. Next, space them out equally before your actual digital SAT test date, reserving two out of the batch. Then, closer to your test administration, you can take that remaining pair of tests a little closer to one another so that you’ll be putting yourself in the right mindset as testing day approaches.
Consider Investing in Digital SAT Prep
If you’re not seeing the progress you’d like to make as you work through your first practice tests and study on your own, you may want to seek out the help of professionals. If you can afford it, you can learn additional test-taking strategies and get extra practice by hiring an SAT tutor or enrolling in a test-prep class. Just make sure that you choose a tutor or program that’s tailored to your individual needs so that you’re getting the most efficient, effective help for your money.
We wish you the best of luck as you prepare for the new digital SAT!
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Meilee Bridges earned her PhD and MA in English language and literature from the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude from the Honors English Program at Trinity University. A former professor turned professional writer and editor, she is dedicated to supporting the educational goals of students from all backgrounds.