How to Prepare for the Digital SAT in 9 Steps

Students taking a test on the computer. They stare at the computer intently.

How to Prepare for the Digital SAT in 9 Steps

Published March 19, 2024

Students taking a test on the computer. They stare at the computer intently.

Editor’s Note: The author, Dr. Kelly Frindell, is a test prep expert and owner of InHouse Test Prep

Students across the U.S. have started taking the new digital SAT in 2024. It requires different test preparation than the old paper SAT, so we’re offering this practical guide on how to prepare for the all-new digital SAT, including steps, tips and insights.

The New Digital SAT

The March 2024 debut of the new digital SAT has created quite a stir in the test prep and college admissions world. There are always growing pains associated with the introduction of a brand-new test, but the switch to an all-digital format has created a new, unique set of challenges.

One big challenge is that the digital SAT adapts to the student’s performance. As the student gives correct answers, questions become more difficult by section but also carry more point value. This requires new approaches to test prep.

>RELATED: What to Know About the Digital SAT 

Digital SAT Prep: 9 Steps for Success

Preparation is the key to succeeding on the digital SAT. Simply “being a good student” is typically not enough. The SAT takes focus, determination, planning and practice.

  1. Plan Your Digital SAT Prep

    When beginning test prep, it’s critical to have a plan. You will need to decide what study methods will work best for you. Options include group in-person classes, online classes, individual tutoring and self-study.     

    Be honest with yourself about what will be most effective. If you know that you are never going to pay attention in an online Zoom class, don’t choose that option. Set yourself up for success from the beginning. If you need help finding resources for tutors or classes, ask your school’s guidance department. They often keep lists of referrals on hand.     

    Once you have decided how you want to prepare, decide which test date you want to take the test, and REGISTER for it. Do not wait to register. It common for test sites to fill up, but even more importantly, having an actual test date lurking in the background will make it easier to prioritize your studying.     

    Once you know your test date, take a timed practice test to see your baseline score. (If you recently took the PSAT, you can use these scores as an estimate of your SAT scores). You can take an online practice test through the College Board’s Blue Book app, or through a third party, like ScoreSmart.   

    Don’t skip this step! Without knowing where you’re starting from, you won’t know where to go. Not all students need to learn all things for the SAT (this is where a tutor or teacher can help guide you!)

  2. Create Your SAT Study Schedule   

    Create an actual study schedule for yourself. Do not skip this step, either. As the saying goes, “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Make a specific plan, and write it down in your planner or put it on your phone calendar. Are you going to dedicate Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. to SAT prep? Write it on your calendar as an appointment time, and stick with it.     

    The reason it’s so important to have a plan ahead of time is because you will have many competing interests, like schoolwork, tests, friends, and extracurricular activities that will distract you or seem more important or fun to do than SAT prep. 

  3. Choose and Use Your SAT Study Materials     

    Start with official materials first. This means materials from The College Board, including Khan Academy’s materials. If you are working through materials on your own, Khan Academy has a self-paced course that will lead you through each of the sections.   

    If you need a brushup of your basic math skills (which many students do), check out a program called Mathchops.com. It has a small monthly subscription fee, but it is an easy and painless way to quickly bump up weak or missing math skills.     

    As you’re working on practice problems and sets, it’s critical that you are reviewing the questions that you miss and learning how to do those problems. If you skip this step, most of your prep will not be effective. Test prep is mostly about pattern recognition and learning that when the test asks [X], you do [Y]. You can’t learn these patterns without reviewing your work.

  4. Take Full-Length Digital SAT Practice Tests     

    You will also want to take full-length digital SAT practice tests. As mentioned, official material from The College Board is good to use, but right now there are not very many tests that have been released. More are promised in the future, but their ETA is unclear.     Another good option is ScoreSmart, which also provides feedback and recommendations.     

    Note: Something that is important to understand about new tests is that they change subtly over time. As a result, the very early-released practice tests do not always exactly reflect the content or difficulty level of the actual test. This issue usually smooths itself out within the first year or so of a new test, but it’s something to be aware of so you don’t panic on test day. Know that *everyone* is in the same boat. 

  5. Request a Device to Take the SAT If You Need One   

    If you do not have a personal or school device to take the digital SAT, you may request one from The College Board. This must be done AT LEAST 30 days in advance of the test. 

  6. Download the Bluebook App     

    A few days before the test, make sure to download the Bluebook App and complete the setup steps. Don’t wait until Friday before the test to do this, in the event that you may need to get help from your school’s IT department. 

  7. Do Final Prep on the Night Before Your Test     

    On Friday night, put together all your materials. Make sure your device is charged, that you have your pencils ready (yes, you still need pencils to write down your work), that you have your ID, that the Blue Book app is set up, and that you know where your test site is, and how you are planning to get there. If you are planning on taking a calculator, make sure it is charged, too. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, and that you set your alarm to leave plenty of time to get ready in the morning.

  8. Don’t Go Hungry   

    Eat breakfast before you go, and take a small snack, like a protein bar, to eat during the break. Plan to wear a sweater in case it’s cold, but make sure you can take it off if it’s hot. 

  9. Decide Whether to Take the Test Again     

    After scores come back, you may find that you want to take the test again. If that’s the case, you can follow similar steps. Pick a test date, pick a study method, make a plan. If one of your scores is significantly weaker than the other, make sure to spend time specifically working on those skills. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.

Good luck!

_______

Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

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