With the December 2023 SAT behind us, the paper-based SAT is no more. Whether you’re taking it internationally or in the US, the SAT is now a shorter, digital, adaptive exam. For students just starting their prep journeys, this change is mostly a good thing—after all, long reading passages and the tricky historical texts are gone, more time is allotted per question, and there's a powerful built-in calculator to use on every math question.
But what if you’ve already prepped for the paper SAT?
You've spent weeks or even months prepping for the paper test—but you didn’t quite hit your target score, and you’re wondering: Was that all a waste? What do I do next? Do I have to start prep over from square one?
Don’t worry! In this post, we’ll break down how to shift your prep so you’re ready to push your score even higher on the digital SAT.
First, the good news… You can use what you learned for the paper SAT
The prep you’ve done for the paper test isn’t all in vain.
Digital SAT grammar doesn't include any new rules—and punctuation, verbs, pronouns, and modifiers are tested exactly as they were on the paper SAT. In fact, fewer rules are tested; several question types are gone, including those on preposition use, concision, idioms, and commonly-confused vocabulary (e.g. effect and affect).
Transition words are tested in exactly the same way.
Reading comprehension passages and questions look a bit different from what you’re used to, but you'll answer them using the same close-reading skills and process-of-elimination strategies you learned for the paper SAT.
In the math section, concepts and question types are largely the same, and you can use the same solving tricks—for instance, substituting in your own values for variables and working backwards from the answer choices. The main content difference is that word problems are just a bit shorter than they were on the paper SAT.
That said, there are several new things to prepare for, so here’s what to do next…
Read up on the test's new structure and format
Though many of the same skills are tested, how some of them are tested is different, as is how the overall test is structured and administered.
Click here for a complete overview. For a deeper dive into what exactly it means for the test to be multi-stage adaptive, click here. Finally, here's where you'll find a more in-depth breakdown of the Reading & Writing section—where the SAT has changed the most.
In the Reading & Writing section, study the new question types
New question types mean new strategies to master. The links below will give you strategies to get started:
Words in Context. To solve these, you'll build your vocabulary and learn to look for clues within the passages.
Rhetorical Synthesis. These questions—which include a bulleted list of information—might seem intimidating at first, but there's a trick to them: they're easier to answer when you don't read the bulleted information.
In the Math section, get the most out of Desmos
Not only is the No Calculator section gone, but the powerful Desmos calculator is now built directly into the Bluebook testing app. Strategy-wise, this calculator is a game-changer.
Even if you’re a student who’s best friends with their TI-84, with a bit of practice, you’ll find that Desmos is faster and more convenient, letting you quickly graph equations, solve basic stats problems without needing to do any manual calculations and do much more. To get you started, click here to learn some Desmos tricks and strategies. Explore Bluebook and the test-taking tools
If you haven’t already done so, download Bluebook, the College Board’s official testing and practice app. Then use Bluebook's test preview tool. This untimed question set will let you see a few examples of the new question types and, more importantly, get comfortable with the new test-taking tools, including the annotator, answer eliminator, and Desmos.
Take a digital SAT practice test—but use the rest sparingly
Once you’ve done a little bit of prep so you know what to expect from the new test, you’ll want to take a full digital practice test—establishing a new baseline score and getting a sense of your strengths and your opportunities for growth and improvement.
A word of caution, though. Arguably, one of the biggest downsides of the digital SAT is that there’s a limited number of official practice tests available. Because of this, you’ll need to use the available tests sparingly and strategically.
In addition to the four official practice tests available in Bluebook, ArborBridge has developed a further five digital practice tests that mirror the content, digital-adaptive format, and Desmos-integration of the actual digital SAT. These tests are available exclusively to the students working with ArborBridge tutors.
Click here for tips on how to get the most out of the available prep materials, plus what to do if you run out of tests.
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