Is the Digital SAT Easier than the Paper SAT? The SAT Crash Course

As the SAT is officially going digital in the United States starting in March 2024, students have a lot of questions regarding the changes in the new SAT. Among those, the most frequently asked one is “Is the digital SAT easier than the paper and pencil SAT?” This question may be highly relevant to students’ test prep journey since the answer will determine how much time and effort they will set aside for their goals. To provide students with an idea, we have looked for evidences in the new SAT that will help us decide the overall difficulty of the exam.


Is the Digital SAT Easier?


The short answer to this question is yes, in a sense that the test promotes students’ ability to utilize their knowledge. This is to say that the new SAT has incorporated some changes that make the test more approachable for the test takers. For example, the new SAT is far shorter than the older version of the exam, which may already lighten a lot of students’ load. In fact, some students who have already taken the digital SAT have testified that the new test feels more manageable than the paper SAT. However, personal preference in test-taking may also affect students’ decision, as the new SAT has moderately altered methods of testing students’ knowledge and skill.

For this reason, it would be worthwhile for students to take note of how the new SAT is different from the older version of the test. In this article, we have divided the modifications in the digital SAT into three categories : the content, the format, and the testing method. Based on your own comfort level in each area, you may be able to assess how difficult the exam will be for you.


The Change in the Content


College Board announced that the digital SAT will maintain its degree of strictness in measuring students’ scholastic abilities. The overall consistency of the topics and varying levels of questions in a section seem to prove their statement.

That being said, some of the efforts are made in the test to simplify the problem-solving process for students. For example, passages in the Reading and Writing section have been shortened and there will be only one question tied to each passage. The passages will be less than 150 words in the new SAT, compared to several hundred words in the past. that require students to go back and forth between questions. The questions will also be more brief and to the point, which may further increase students’ test-taking pace.

Is the Digital SAT easier

In the Math section, one of the biggest changes is that students are allowed to use a calculator throughout the entire section. A student well adept in using a calculator will be able to solve problems in various categories with ease. Students can bring their own calculator approved by the College Board or use the built-in Desmos™ calculator in the testing app. Also, in-context questions(“word problems”) became shorter and more concise to help students focus more on utilizing their mathematic skills instead of reading skills.


The Change in the Format


As previously mentioned, the digital SAT is significantly shorter than the paper SAT. The duration of the paper SAT was 3 hours in total, which is reduced to only 2 hours and 14 minutes in the new SAT. Despite the shortened time, students have more time per question in the new SAT because of lessened number of questions. Digital SAT score can range from 400 – 1600, each section scored on a scale of 200 – 800.

Another change, and the most significant one in terms of the test format, is that the new SAT uses adaptive modules. It is a new system in which students receive two sets of questions, the level of the second one determined by their performance on the first module. The first module is a mix of easy medium and hard questions and the second module consists of more difficult or easy questions based on how the student did previously.

This means the better students perform, the more challenging their testing experience can get. This may seem unfair at first but hard work comes with compensation; students can earn more points by getting questions right on the more difficult module than the easier module. This is because the weight of the questions vary according to their difficulty level. Even if a student gets all the questions in the easier second module, there is a limit to the score that the student can achieve. However, this can still be of benefit to students who previously struggled in a particular section. All in all, this new system of adaptive testing is certainly new to everyone and it may take a few attempts for students to find out how they can use it to their advantage.

Student taking digital SAT practice test

Digitalized Testing Method


Needless to say, the digital SAT assigns the test in a digital form that is to be taken on a computer. College Board provides a testing app called Bluebook that students use to take the exam either on their own device or on the device managed by the testing site. In the app, students will have digital tools to help them take the test such as the built-in calculator for the Math section and the annotating tool for the Reading and Writing section.

These digitalized test taking format may be more comfortable for some students who are adept in reading passages and solving questions on screen. To develop these skills, it is encouraged that students take digital SAT practice tests on a computer before the test day.


Will I Do Well on the Digital SAT?


As previously mentioned, there are several factors that indicate the digital SAT may be more manageable than the paper SAT for some students. The new test surely appears to be more streamlined in a way that helps students who are prepared perform their best.

That being said, it will be in test takers’ best interest to familiarize themselves with the new test format. Students will be able to better concentrate on the content when they have a good understanding of how the test is structured. All in all, the digital SAT can be favorable to students who know what to expect on the exam day.

To learn more, check out this article that will tell you about the changes in the digital SAT in more depth and how to effectively prepare for it!