Overview
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Overview

The testing time for the digital exam is shorter than the paper-based exam; also, it has more time per question. The size of the passages is shorter. Scores can be released much faster. The score range of digital and paper patterns is the same. The digital SAT in each assessment has two sections: the Reading and Writing section and the Math section. Furthermore, these two sections are split into two subsections called modules. 

Each Reading and Writing module is for 32 minutes, while each Math module is for 35 minutes. Students have 64 minutes to complete the Reading and Writing section and 70 minutes to complete the Math section. 

Students can move backwards and forward among questions within each module before the time runs out. When time runs out on each section'ssection's first module, the Digital SAT testing platform moves students to the second module without any break time. After completing the Reading and Writing section, the students have a 10-minute break before moving on to the Math section. The total testing time for the Digital SAT is around 2 hours and 14 minutes (excluding the 10-min break time). The significant difference between pen & paper and digital patterns is the introduction of adaptive testing; this means that SAT will now adapt to questions more appropriate to a student's performance level.

1. Decoding the Adaptive Testing Logic

These practice tests give us our first glimpse of the adaptive algorithm that the College Board will use for scoring the new tests. In the first module (a.k.a the baseline module), students will face a mix of easy, medium and difficult questions. Based on how students perform on the first module, the second module (a.k.a the adaptive module) of questions will be harder or less hard. The student's performance on the first module for math and reading & writing will determine whether one gets the easier or harder adaptive modules as their second module in each section. With 22 math questions (20 operational, 2 experimental (non-graded)) and 27 Reading/Writing questions (25 operational, 2 experimental (non-graded)) in each baseline module, what will be the cut-off to decide on the easier or harder difficulty level for their second module? 

We found that for this particular test, the cut-off to advance to the harder math module was 15 correct answers out of 22 items on the baseline module, and for the verbal module, it was 18 of the 27 items. That would indicate that a student must answer roughly one-third of the questions correctly to get the harder module in their second.
Please note this is a general estimate and does not factor in the 2 experimental questions per module, which will not impact the algorithm.

Digital SAT Adaptive Structure

2. Scoring Thresholds and Caps

We have more work to do to fully understand the nature of the scoring algorithm once more tests are released, but our initial analysis begins to reveal some of the "edges" of the scoring. 

3. The Easy Upper Limit

In the Math module, if a student misses more than 7 questions on the baseline math module and is therefore routed to the easier adaptive module, that student's final score appears to be capped at 650 or so. Even if a student answers all 22 questions correctly in the adaptive module (20 of which are operational, 2 experimental), the missed questions from the baseline will cap the score to 650.

4. The Hard Lower Limit

If a student correctly answers the minimum threshold of 15 questions on the baseline module to advance to the harder subsequent math module and then proceeds to miss every question in the second module, that student will attain a score of 460.  So it seems the scoring minimum for a student advancing to the hard math module is roughly 460 (15 of 44 total items answered correctly), and the maximum score for a student advancing to the easier math module is approximately 650 (36 of 44 items answered correctly). It is important to mention that this scale will likely be distinct for this practice test and not generalize to subsequent tests, which will have their scales. 
The threshold to advance in math maybe 14 or 16 questions, but this early analysis gives students a ballpark estimate of how they will have to perform to cross the threshold to the more difficult adaptive sections.

Built-in Tools

The digital version of the SAT comes with several critical tools to ensure all students are equipped to succeed.  

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1. Digital Timer

An onscreen timer will ensure more accurate and consistent timing. Students no longer need to rely on a proctor to time them correctly or worry about bringing the right type of watch on test day.

2. In-App Calculator

The powerful Desmos graphing calculator, baked into the app, plays a major role in this new test and, for many students, will fundamentally change the experience of taking the test. A graphing calculator is built into the testing app, ensuring everyone has access to the same functionalities. The calculator opens and closes with a single click and can remain open throughout the test. While some students feel more comfortable with their familiar handheld calculator, the Desmos option is right on the screen, immediately adjacent to the content, which is extremely convenient for problem-solving.

We found that students who know how to use a graphing calculator could use it to answer the majority of questions, often by plugging in equations and identifying where functions intersect on the graph. While there may be more efficient ways to solve every problem, it affords students another pathway towards the correct answer and can significantly help low and mid-scoring students. In particular, the Desmos calculator made the "easier" adaptive module that much easier for students: the calculator was a passport to solving a surprising number of problems. 

3. Reference Sheet

The same math reference sheet that used to appear in the opening pages of the paper SAT is available on the digital SAT.

4. Elimination Function

By toggling the elimination button in the top right corner of the question, students can visually eliminate answers that are obviously wrong and hone in on the top contenders.

5. Mark for Review Function

Are you nervous that you can't draw stars next to questions you want to return to? Never fear. The digital SAT includes a "mark for review" feature, allowing students to flag questions they wish to review later and easily navigate back to these questions.

Consolidated mark for review view at the end of each module. This feature helps you go through all the questions marked for review in a single window and navigate easily through each marked question.

6. Annotate Function

Some students like to jot down notes next to Verbal questions on the pen & paper SAT. On the digital SAT, there's an "Annotate" button to preserve that capability, allowing students to write quick notes to themselves about the main ideas, keywords, or phrases.

Reading & Writing

Unlike the paper SAT, which includes two Verbal sections — one more focused on reading comprehension and one more focused on grammar — the digital SAT has one Reading & Writing section, in which questions centring on various verbal skills are mixed. Each question is accompanied by a passage that ranges from a single sentence to an entire paragraph. Here are some types of questions you can expect to see in the Reading & Writing section of the digital SAT.

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1. Vocab-in-context

These questions ask students to select the most logical and precise vocabulary word to fill in a blank based on knowledge of the words themselves and the context of the passage.

2. Paired passages

These questions ask students to analyze and compare the authors' points of view of two different passages.

3. Purpose

These questions ask students to identify the purpose and impact of a single sentence in a larger passage.

4. Character

These questions ask students to analyze and summarize information about certain characters based on the information provided about those characters in a passage. Some passages include many characters, requiring students to avoid distractions and focus on the character the question identifies.

5. Main idea

These questions ask students to synthesize a passage's main idea or primary purpose. Students must understand how to discern more extraneous details from a passage'spassage's central themes.

6. Reading graphs & charts

As in the paper SAT, the verbal section of the digital SAT includes some questions that combine reading comprehension with more quantitative skills. Questions like these test a student'sstudent's ability to correctly interpret graphs and charts and apply that information to a written passage.

7. Grammar

These questions test a student'sstudent's grasp of grammatical concepts like punctuation, parts of speech, and proper sentence structure.

8. Transition

These questions ask students to select the transition word that most closely reflects the relationship between two sentences or clauses.

9. Relevance

These questions ask students to identify the most relevant information in a list of loosely related pieces based on a stated goal.

Math

On the paper SAT, the two Math sections (Calculator and No-Calculator) are further subdivided into multiple choice questions and "grid-in" questions (on which students write in their answers rather than selecting from provided options). Math on the digital SAT will be different in two crucial ways. First, calculators will be allowed in the entire section. Second, the section includes a mixture of multiple-choice questions and free-response questions.

That being said, the content areas covered by the digital SAT seem extremely similar to those covered by the paper SAT! Here are some of the content areas you can expect to see in the Math section of the digital SAT.

  1. Exponents & Radicals
  2. Exponential vs. Linear Growth
  3. Expressions
  4. Manipulating & Solving Equations
  5. Systems of Equations
  6. Word Problems
  7. Lines
  8. Quadratics
  9. Triangles
  10. Circles
  11. Trigonometry
  12. Probability
  13. Statistics

See an example of each of these content areas below!

1. Exponents & Radicals

2. Exponential vs. Linear Growth

3. Expressions

4. Manipulating & Solving Equations

5. Systems of Equations

6. Word Problems

7. Lines

8. Quadratics

9. Triangles

10. Circles

11. Trigonometry

12. Probability

13. Statistics

Conclusion

The digital SAT is an important development in the world of standardised testing. As SAT continues to transition into the online space, it is important for students and educators to familiarise themselves with the digital format and understand its unique features and potential challenges. By preparing in advance and understanding the differences between the digital and traditional versions of the SAT, students can ensure that they are well-equipped to succeed on the test and achieve their academic goals.

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Disclaimer: Please note that the content is structured around the SAT practice test, attempted on College Board.