PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 219 | The New Digital SAT Is Here (For Good)

The new digital SAT is here to stay. What should I know?

In today's episode, I review the new digital SAT.

If you are a parent, or a 9th, 10th, or 11th grader, this is a must-listen.

What are the big 4 changes, and how do you set yourself up for success?

Show Transcript:

Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. Today I'm going to give a quick review of the new digital S.A.T.. I have a lot of online prep boilers and private prep bowlers who just took the March 9th Digital S.A.T., the first official test of its kind in the United States. And some of them were caught a little off guard.

So I want to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This information is especially important for juniors who will be the guinea pig class for this new digital format and of course, for sophomores who should be preparing for the S.A.T. or the ACT this summer just in case people missed it from here on out. Actually, as I said, starting a couple of weeks ago, the S.A.T. will be given in digital format only.

No more paper tests, no more number two pencils, no more scantron. All digital all the time. I don't want to dwell on the why these changes have taken place. There are many reasons. It's done. It's over with. There's no turning back. So let's all just do what we can to make the best of it. The good news is that the feedback so far from students is that they like the digital test better.

So at least we have that going for us. So what's happening with the new digital S.A.T. for big changes? Number one, it's digital. Number two, it's shorter. Number three, it's what we call adaptive. And number four, there is far less reading. So let's go through each of these changes. Big change. Number one, as I said, the SATs now digital.

There are no other options. You will take your laptop into a testing site, fully charged. I should emphasize intent and take the entire test from what's called the Blue Book app on your laptop. For those of you who are fairly tech savvy and have your own laptop, you should find this part of this experience comforting. You're using a device that you're familiar with.

You use it regularly. If you don't have your own laptop, one will be provided to you on test day and you should have ample time to play around with it. Make sure you understand how it all works. The interface is pretty simple. It's intuitive, especially for those of you who have grown up on these types of devices. In terms of the test itself and it being digital, there are no big gotchas here.

The experience is just a little bit different and it may take a little bit of getting used to, which is one of the many reasons why you should take several practice digital SATs before the real thing. There are some cool things that you can do with the new digital testing software. You can skip questions just like you could on the paper based test.

If for some reason the question is not cooperating with you or you want to get through a bunch of the easier questions, first, you can flag a question and then come back to it later on. If you want, just click the flag button. However, once you complete a section, you cannot go back to that section. In other words, if you complete the math section and then begin working on the verbal section, and then it finally occurs to you how to break out that quadratic formula, you cannot go back to the math section.

That section will be closed for good. Let's move on to big change. Number two. The test is shorter. It used to be 3 hours and 15 minutes. Now it's only 2 hours. This is a big deal. Part of the drag of the paper based SAT is that it took so long that your brain was fried. By the time you got to our three now, the more prepared you were and the smarter you were, the deeper into the test you got before you started to lose concentration.

But if you were at max concentration in minute two, it was really tough to sustain your performance for another three plus hours, especially these days with our attention spans in the toilet. Most students will struggle to keep their focus for three straight hours. 2 hours is a lot more doable. So this is a very good thing. Again, from a student experience perspective, one of the reasons they've been able to shorten the test considerably from three plus hours to only 2 hours is by changing the format of the test, which leads us to big change.

Number three, the new digital asset test format is what is known as adaptive. This means that the test will adjust to or adapt to how well you're doing on the test in real time. Here's how it works. There are two distinct sections for math and two distinct sections for verbal. Part one Math. Part two Math. Part one Verbal.

Part two verbal. Everybody gets the same Part one section for the math and the verbal, but not everyone gets the same part. Two sections. And you won't know which part two sections you will get until you finish Part one. For example, if you take part one of the math section and you crush it. It will branch you off into the higher level math section in part two, where the questions will be a little bit tougher.

This is the path that you want to be on. It's the path that will allow you to max out, ideally your score on the math section. Same thing goes for verbal. If you do very well on part one of the verbal section, it will branch you off into the higher level verbal section in part two, where the questions will be a little bit more challenging.

Now, obviously the opposite can happen as well. If you bomb the first section, you'll be branched off into the lower level Part two section where the questions are less challenging. The problem here is if you bomb the first part of either section, math or verbal and you get branched off to the lower level section, your overall score for that section will be capped.

Even if you get every single question correct. In the part two section. Your upside is still limited, I believe. For example, if you get branched to the lower level math for part two, I don't think your math overall score can ever get above. I think it's 510. No matter how much you crushed the second half of that math section, the moral of the story is do your best to perform well on part one so that you'll give yourself maximum opportunity on part two and thus your total score for each section.

However, please do not spend a lot of time or energy trying to figure out what branch you're on by thinking about how hard or how easy part two questions are. That's a big waste of time because of the structure of the test. It will not be that obvious which path you've branched off into. It's not as if every question is going to be pathetically easy or impossibly hard.

There will be a lot of in-between questions to throw you off the track, so don't worry about it. Don't second guess yourself. Just make sure you're paying a lot of attention to detail on part one and try to get to the more challenging branch for part two. And by the way, to make sure that you stay focused. No matter how well you think you did on part one.

There is a possibility that even if you get branched off into the lower level path and do really well, that you could actually do better than someone who branched into the higher level path but then completely fell apart in section two. So don't give up hope if you think you branched down and don't get too cocky. If you think you branched up, just keep your cool.

Focus on the questions. Remember, the test is only 2 hours long now. Surely you can keep it together for 25 minutes in a row, in between sections. And lastly, big change. Number four. There's far less reading on the new digital S.A.T.. Back in the olden days, a few weeks ago, you would have to read a passage which was a story or an article of some kind of about a page and a half straight prose.

And then you'd have to read and answer 7 to 9 questions about that page and a half that you just read. So you'd have to either one try to remember what you're reading as you're reading it, God forbid, and or to be really good at going back through the passage multiple times, trying to pick out the answers to the questions.

This jammed up a lot of students who weren't particularly good readers. Well, all of that is now gone. Now, you read a short snippet, sometimes as few as two sentences, and then you answer a question about that snippet. That's it. Do that ten times in a row and boom, you're done with the verbal section. Yes, I know. That sounds like more of a can you read the English language test?

But that's just the way it is. It's hard to believe that this actually counts as reading comprehension, but this is where we are now. Do the best you can with it. Remember, you're only obligated to focus for a max of about 30 minutes at a time, which is well within reach, especially if you're putting in any amount of preparation time.

A few other things to note. The A.C.T., which is the alternative test, is not yet available in digital format. They are working on it, but they still offer the paper based test only. And yes, it's still 3 hours and 15 minutes. And by the way, just because that act is paper based and 75 minutes longer than the new digital SAT does not necessarily mean that you shouldn't take it.

The acti mean you should take a practice test of both and let the scores speak for themselves. I have several prep welders who have stuck with the act and grinded on studying for the act because they liked it better and it suited their testing style better and they are now crushing it. So don't completely write off the act.

And on that note, before I forget, please reach out to me and I will connect you with our test prep partner who will very easily provide you with a free official digital S.A.T. practice and a free paper based act practice that you can do right from home. Okay. And a few closing thoughts here. Number one, make sure your computer is fully charged before you show up at the testing center.

Duh. You are not guaranteed an outlet to charge your computer. So make sure you start off with plenty of juice. Number two, if you happen to be a slower test taker, I would probably opt for the new digital S.A.T. because it allows for more time per question compared to the act, which is typically a much faster paced test.

And number three, the digital S.A.T. seems to be much more flexible when it comes to a host of accommodations, either the need for more time or for the test to be read aloud to you. Whatever the issue, the digital asset seems to be more conducive to these one off situations. So if that pertains to you, I would look into that.

Now, some of you might be thinking, Do colleges care which test I take the digital S.A.T. or the paper based act? At this point, I would say probably not. As most of you know, the vast, vast majority of schools are still test optional. So how much could they really care about which test you took if they don't even care about whether you took a test or not, allegedly.

However, there's a big caveat here at some of the more selective schools. And since some colleges are reverting back to test required, I would say it still behooves you to get the best score you can on an SAT or an act. I would say whichever test you think you will perform better on, do that one. And at this particular junction on the margin at the most selective colleges, it might be a little bit more impressive to have a high score because it's perceived as the old school test that many think are going to be far more challenging than the new digital S.A.T. But I wouldn't suffer through the act.

Especially if you won't score as well as you would on the digital S.A.T. just because you think you're going to get some kind of sympathy, extra credit for taking the more hard core test. In the end, colleges want you to score well on these tests because it reflects well on them in the rankings if you score high. They want to accept students with high scores.

They're rooting for you and they will normally give you the benefit of the doubt, i.e. super scoring, even if it's for their own self-interest. The key takeaway here is to take a practice digital S.A.T. and a practice paper based act. I often recommend within a couple of maybe one or two weeks of each other to see which test you score better on and or you like more.

Hopefully you like the experience of the test that you performed better on. Then you pick that one, you leave the other one behind and you put your study plan together again, if you have not yet taken a practice digital asset and a practice paper based act. Please reach out to me and I will set you up with a free at home practice test for both with an online proctor so that you can make an informed decision about which test to prepare for and which test to take.

That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies online mentoring program where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships.

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PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc.

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