Want a high score on the Digital SAT? The first step is to know exactly what you are in for with this new digital test. The change from the pencil-and-paper SAT to the new Digital SAT was more than just copy-and-pasting the old exam into a digital format. Instead, students taking the new test face new types of questions, different pacing requirements, and even new tools, like the Desmos on-screen calculator.

Getting a high score on the Digital SAT requires students to adjust their prep strategies to meet the demands of this updated version. As a long-term private tutor, I have guided students through four different SAT formats over the last two decades. I’ve seen plenty of changes and know how to get students high scores even when an exam is so new that there aren’t many resources available. In this post, I’d like to share some of those tips with you so that you know exactly what you (or your teenager) need to focus on.

Understanding the Digital SAT

At its core, the Digital SAT covers the same areas as the traditional test: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. But, it does so in a way that’s a bit different. The test is now adaptive, which simply means it adjusts to your level of ability as you move through the test. This approach helps create a more personalized testing experience that allows Collegeboard to pinpoint your SAT score faster and with fewer questions than before.

The test structure is divided into two main sections, each split into two modules. Your performance in the first module determines the difficulty level of the second module.

The basic takeaway for students who want a high score on the Digital SAT is that it’s crucial to do well on each section’s first modules. You can’t get a top score in Math, for example, if your Math Module 1 score isn’t good enough to get you placed into a high-difficulty Math Module 2. It’s therefore essential to master not just the high-difficulty questions, but also the easy and medium questions you’ll face in Module 1. (No careless mistakes!)

Digital SAT Structure

Before we get into specific skills to master if you are shooting for that top score, here’s a rundown of the new digital test.

Reading and Writing

  • 2 modules with 32 questions each
  • 32 minutes per module, which equates to 1 minute per question
  • Question Types: 
    • Information and Ideas (These are your standard reading comprehension questions, asking you to find the main point, identify evidence, and make inferences. These questions involve written paragraphs as well as informational graphics like tables, bar graphs, and line graphs.) 
    • Craft and Structure (These questions test students on HOW a text is written. They test vocabulary in context, the structure of a text, the function of parts of a text, and connections between texts.)
    • Expression of Ideas (These questions ask students to revise a portion of a paragraph in order to achieve a particular goal.)
    • Standard English Conventions (These questions test a student’s knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.)

Math

  • 2 modules with 27 questions each
  • 35 minutes per module, which equates to a bit more than 1 minute per question.
  • Question Types: multiple-choice and student-produced responses. 
  • Math Topics:
    • Algebra
    • Advanced math
    • Problem-solving and data analysis
    • Geometry and trigonometry
  • New Tools: All math sections provide access to a built-in graphing calculator by Desmos.

Key Skills to Master for a High Score on the Digital SAT

Achieving a top score on the Digital SAT requires more than just familiarity with the content; it demands strategic mastery of certain skills and tools.

Math Content

I’ve noticed that the actual math tested on the Digital SAT does not seem to be as complex or as high in difficulty as the math on the old SAT, and definitely not as high level as ACT Math. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a perfect score.

Oftentimes, strong math students need to review some of those basic concepts they haven’t focused on in years, things like how to write an equation for a line when you are just given two points, or how to calculate probability from information in a table.

There may be other random content gaps as well. For many students, standard deviation is a concept that they haven’t been exposed to much before. High-scoring students need to do enough practice to be able to identify all of these little content areas they are missing.

Solving Math Questions with Desmos

The inclusion of the Desmos graphing calculator on the Digital SAT is a complete game-changer. Getting a high score on the Digital SAT requires knowing how to leverage Desmos to solve problems creatively. Most of my students are already familiar with Desmos to some degree, but I find that most of them benefit from learning additional features of Desmos and additional applications of the tool.

For those looking to deepen their understanding, I highly recommend Dr. Ela Sharma’s The Desmos Graphing Calculator: Digital SAT Math Prep.

Reading Comprehension Skills

The Digital SAT features shorter reading passages than the old test, but that definitely does not make them easier. Instead, the texts tend to be denser and written in a more academic style than the previous SAT. High-scoring students need to make sure they can find the main idea, identify the function of particular sentences, and make valid inferences even when faced with daunting paragraphs. And they also need to get good at finding relevant information from charts and graphs.

Mastering New Question Types

One new question type on the Digital SAT requires students to integrate information from a set of student notes in order to accomplish a specific writing task. This is a question type students aren’t likely to have seen much before. Doing well on these questions often comes down to how well the student can focus on the writing task presented in the question stem so that they can pick out the relevant information from the notes.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary was pretty de-emphasized on the SAT from 2016-2023, but it’s back now! While the Digital SAT does not test vocabulary in isolation (no analogies or synonym questions, thank goodness!), there is more of an emphasis on college-level vocabulary as used in the context of academic writing. Students who hope to get a top score should read widely, including literature, scientific articles, and historical texts, to naturally expand their vocabulary. But if test day is just a few months away, a good, old-fashioned vocabulary list can help. I recommend Erica Meltzer’s SAT Vocabulary book because it gives great context for each vocabulary word.

Highly Tested Grammar Skills

The most commonly tested areas of grammar are punctuation to combine sentences, modifiers, verbs (tenses and subject/verb agreement), and transitions. Students need to get comfortable addressing these grammar topics in complex academic writing.

Study Strategies for High-Scoring Students

To get a high score on the Digital SAT, students need good study habits and effective strategies. If you’re shooting for a high score, be sure to find a quiet spot for focused study sessions, and break your work into manageable chunks using methods like the Pomodoro Technique or tools like Focusmate. Take the time to identify trouble spots, then learn techniques for those questions and drill them heavily. Practice with timed tests to get your pacing down. And review your mistakes afterward; consider them learning opportunities that are specifically targeted to you (and therefore so much more valuable than a random chapter in a prep book). 

And finally, seek feedback and support, especially if you find yourself getting stuck at the same score test after test. In these cases, a tutor who specializes in working with high-scoring and ambitious students (like yours truly), can make all the difference.

Hang in there! Keep working hard, and get that score you’ve dreamed about!

This post may contain an affiliate link or a referral link. For more information, please see my disclosure here.


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