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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

The New Digital SAT and Your Service Academy Applications

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Next March 2024 will introduce the new "digital" SAT

Academy Candidate taking the digital SAT

Many of my students are asking about the new digital version of the SAT.

  • What is different?

  • Are there advantages?

  • Can you superscore an old and new test?

  • How should I prepare?

  • Any testing advice?

I'll use this blog to address these questions and a few others too.

First, as I write this blog, there are three more 'old fashion' SAT dates available for students: October 7, November 4 and December 2, 2023. If you prefer this version, then you have time to prepare and take it soon.

The differences between the new digital SAT and the old version are fairly significant so let's use the table below (from UWorld College Prep) to point out the 'biggest' ones.

Service Academy candidate comparison of SAT versions

As noted in the table, the D-SAT will use your personal laptop or tablet. Students who do not have a digital device may request one from College Board. Note that the request must be made 30-days prior to the testing date.

The test is modular where the first 'stage' of each subject determines the version chosen for your second stage. Students testing together will encounter differing versions of the test, even on the first stages, which will provide added 'security' during the testing.

The D-SAT is shorter than the 'old' paper version. There are 54 questions/tasks for the English (Reading and Writing) using two 32-minute modules. Math consists of two 35-minute modules presenting 44 questions/tasks. By the way, your proctor can provide 'scratch paper' if you desire to use it during the test. All of the pages must be returned to the proctor at the end of the test. Be sure to bring your own pencils and pens with you for the testing. Finally, the SAT will continue to be scored on the same 400-1600 score scale just like the current 'paper and pencil' version.

The test will be administered through a secured application called "Bluebook™." You will not be able to open other applications while you are testing. To prepare, you will be asked to install the application prior to arriving at the test site. Another interesting feature of the test is that your proctor will have a digital dashboard will allow her/him to monitor all of the students taking the D-SAT.

What are the advantages of the D-SAT?

Here are some of the 'upsides' to this version of the SAT:

  • Faster results - You will receive your scores back in days, instead of weeks!

  • More Testing Dates – The digital SAT is offered on more dates than the paper-based exam, giving you more flexibility in scheduling your test.

  • Improved Reading - The new exam will have shorter reading passages and more direct questions. Each brief text will include a single question.

  • Improved Math - Word problems will be slimmed down. You will have access to a built-in graphic calculator (though you may still bring your own).

  • Easier timing - The test features an on-screen, count-down timer. You may hide the timer if you desire.

  • Useful digital tools - Added digital tools include an 'annotator' allowing you to make notes and highlight text, plus a 'question navigator' allows you to mark questions for later review and to strike through answers you deem to be incorrect.

  • No penalty for guessing - If you're not sure of the answer, it's better to guess than leave the response blank.

Can the D-SAT be superscored? Can superscores combine two versions?

Yes, College Board states that the D-SAT and its components may be superscored. In fact, according to College Board, a paper-based Math or English result may be superscored with a D-SAT Math or English component. However, none of the U.S. service academies (USAFA, USMA, USNA, USCGA or USMMA) have made any statements (that I know of) supporting this policy. I believe we will 'hear' something during the next admissions cycle for Class of 2029 candidates, especially as the service academies see concrete results from the D-SAT in the Spring of 2024.

How is adaptive testing used with the D-SAT?

In short, the D-SAT uses the first stage of each section, Math and English, to determine the second stage that you will see. Thus, the first stage of each section is not adaptive and contains a full range of question difficulty. The D-SAT only 'adapts' once for English and only once for Math. This approach lowers the stakes on any one question and also preserves the ability to go backward and forward within a stage.

To support testing, when you connect the Bluebook application to the internet, it downloads three sets of questions (modules) per section to the testing device at the very beginning. This approach allows testing to continue even if the internet goes down or power glitches.

How should you prepare for the D-SAT?

In many ways, you should prepare in the same way you would prepare for an 'old' SAT. Here are some D-SAT preparation tips:

  • Send Official Scores - Just as with the current SAT, be sure to send official scores directly from the College Board to the different U.S. services academies. This action can completed when you register for the test. Each school has a unique code; for example, the code for the Air Force Academy is 4830.

  • Take Practice Tests – The College Board offers free digital practice tests that you may use to become accustomed with the D-SAT. Taking practice tests can help you identify areas where you need to improve and to practice answering questions on your device. You may find practice tests on the College Board website at satsuite.collegeboard.org/digital/digital-practice-preparation

  • Practice with Online Tools – Orient yourself with the online tools provided on the D-SAT, such as the calculator, highlighter, and note-taking functions. Get familiar with how each one works before taking the actual D-SAT.

  • Time Management – Practice managing your time effectively using a timer or over device.

  • Get Comfortable with Your Digital Device – Be it a laptop, computer or tablet, make sure you are comfortable using it to take a test. Practice typing and navigating the D-SAT digital interface.

  • Collect Your Testing Items on the Night Prior – Refer to the list below.

Any other testing advice?

My first piece of advice is to focus on what you can control, and do not try to 'game' the test. In other words, do not fall into the quicksand of "what module will I get next?" and simply work on the question or problem in front of you.

Secondly, and especially for the first module, I emphasize using accuracy over speed.

Lastly, plan to take the SAT 'early and often' starting as soon as the end of you sophomore year. Superscoring is employed by the service academies, which allows you to continue to improve your scores 'piece by piece.'

What should you bring?

Bring the following with you for the D-SAT:

  • Your fully charged testing device with the Bluebook application installed (this link with the College Board provides detailed device requirements).

  • A face covering (if one is required at your test center or if you prefer to wear a mask).

  • Your up-to-date admission ticket.

  • Acceptable photo ID.

  • Pencils and/or pens for scratch work.

  • An acceptable calculator for use on the Math section of the test (but note that there will be an embedded graphing calculator available to use within Bluebook).

Here is a list of some items you may want to bring too:

  • A watch without an audible alarm. (However, you should note that the Bluebook application has a built-in timer that tells you exactly how much time you have left, but you might still want to time your break.)

  • A charging cable if your testing device can’t hold a charge for three hours.

  • A bag or backpack.

  • A drink or snacks (for your break).

  • A backup digital testing device with the Bluebook application installed.

My last point is that some students may prefer a written, paper-based test. The ACT will remain as an option for you if this format is your preference. The U.S. service academies count either one equally. In fact, you may want to try both tests to see which one works best for you.

The D-SAT presents some big differences from the current version. Use it to your advantage, if it works for you. Prepare early and thoroughly, just like any other important test, and I'm confident you will do well!

[I would welcome a chance to discuss details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process . . . along with advice regarding the SAT/ACT! Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406, or the contact form on this website]

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