As appealing as the option might sound, you can’t take the SAT online yet—it must be administered on paper at a designated test center. However, in coming years, the SAT will be administered entirely online!
This guide will answer all your questions about the upcoming digital SAT, including when students will be able to take it, where it can be taken, and what the format will be like.
The Current Online Testing Situation
On January 25, 2022, the College Board announced that the SAT would be undergoing significant changes, including becoming a computer-based test instead of one you take with pencil and paper.
It’s important to know that these SAT changes aren’t happening right away. The exact dates haven’t been announced, but the College Board stated that the digital SAT won’t be rolled out until sometime in 2023 for international students and sometime in 2024 for US students. New, digital versions of the PSAT/NMSQT and the PSAT 8/9 will roll out in 2023, with the PSAT 10 going digital in 2024.
What all this means is that if you don’t want to take the digital version of the SAT, you still have time to take the current, paper-based, version (even several times if you want). SAT scores technically never expire, and as long as your scores have been taken within the past five years, nearly every college will accept them.
What the Digital SAT Will Look Like
Even thought the SAT is going digital, many major aspects of the test are staying the same, including the general format and content, as well as the scoring scale out of 1600. But how will the digital SAT be different from the current SAT? Below are the key changes. You can also learn more by reading our in-depth guide to the digital SAT.
You’ll Still Have a Set Test Date and Location
Don’t start thinking you’ll be able to take the digital SAT in the comfort of your own home. We expect that the computerized test will still be administered at set test centers and on specific dates.
The exam can either be taken on a computer at the testing center, or students will be able to bring their own laptops from home (although some testing centers/schools may require you to take the test on their computers only). Students who don’t have access to a computer or laptop will be loaned one by the College Board to take the SAT. If the internet goes down during the SAT, your work will be saved, and you won’t lose time on the test.
It’ll Be Shorter Than the Paper-Based SAT
The College Board hasn’t released the exact format of the new version of the SAT, but they did announce that they’re trimming a full hour off the test. The SAT will now last roughly two hours instead of three. Expect each section to be whittled down slightly.
It Will Look a Lot Like the Khan Academy Practice Tests
As I’ll describe in more depth below, the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free SAT practice online, including online practice tests. The format is very similar to the GRE, a computerized test also administered by ETS. See the images below to get a sense of the format.
You can see the total time in the top left and the time remaining in the top right. Each page includes one passage (on the left) and its associated questions (on the right). On the bottom, directions are on the left and navigation is on the right.
The College Board has announced that Reading questions on the digital SAT will have several changes:
- Reading passages will be shorter
- Each passage will have only one question tied to it
- Passages will cover a wider range of topics
Currently, SAT Reading contains six passages, each about 500 to 750 words long. Each passage has about ten questions linked to it. These changes are designed to make the passages easier and faster to read and interpret.
Writing looks pretty much the same as Reading — just slightly different introductory text.
Since there are no passages, each math question is on its own page. There’s also more information in the bottom left, including a link to the formulas provided with the test. The College Board has announced that, for the digital SAT, you’ll be able to use an onscreen calculator for the entire section, as opposed to the current no-calculator and calculator sections SAT Math currently has.
SAT Resources That Are Available Online
Even though you can’t take the actual test online yet, the College Board offers tons of SAT information and resources on their website. You can:
The College Board also offers a free test prep program through Khan Academy. It includes full official practice tests, extra practice questions, and helpful math review videos. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much guidance for the reading and writing sections, so I would recommend supplementing it with a more strategy-focused guide.
There are also a lot of unofficial SAT materials, of varying quality, available online. PrepScholar has both excellent free resources (just scroll through the topics on the right sidebar to find what you’re looking for) and a best-in-class adaptive SAT prep program.
If you were hoping to take the SAT online now because you have a learning difficulty or physical disability or cannot reach any of the available test centers, the College Board offers accommodations that can make the test more manageable for you.
If You Struggle With the Paper Test
If you have a learning disability, visual impairment, or other condition that makes the paper format of the test challenging for you, you may qualify for SSD accommodations. These can include using a larger bubble sheet, taking the essay section on a computer, or even having a scribe record your answers for you.
If You Can’t Reach a Test Center
If the nearest SAT testing center is more than 75 miles from your home, you can request testing closer to your home. Should the College Board grant your request, they’ll set up a more conveniently located testing center.
Keep in mind that there are some exceptions: you can’t request closer-to-home testing when registering late or in India and Pakistan.
Do you have other questions about registering for the SAT? Check out our full guide to the process (with pictures), read up on the admission ticket, and learn how much the test costs.
Make sure you know what to expect on test day, including how long the test takes, the test instructions, and the rules you must follow.
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