New SAT Format: Difference Between Old and New SAT Format


8 mins read6K Views
Aishwarya Bhatnagar
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Jun 28, 2024 00:19 IST
Since studying abroad is the new inn, a lot of high school pass-outs dream of studying abroad in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. To apply for undergraduate admissions in these countries, students may be required to submit standardised test scores of either SAT or ACT.  SAT underwent a major change and this article will focus on the changes that came about.
difference between old and new sat

These two tests that are, ACT and SAT are widely opted for by international students for major US universities and Canadian university admissions. Since more and more students register for the SAT every year, to ease the load of the States and schools to assess the pencil-paper SATs, the new Digital SAT has emerged aiming to easily evaluate the SAT test in a more efficient and less time-consuming manner. The scoring range on the SAT remains the same, that is between 400-1600.

The New SAT or Digital SAT is officially conducting its first test for international students in India on March 11, 2023. The benefit of the new SAT exam format is that the exam will be online, on the student’s laptop or iPad but with an internet connection at the SAT centre. The Digital SAT is shorter than the previous one and score reports would be released within a couple of days rather than weeks. This article covers all that you should know about the new SAT exam, the SAT exam pattern, syllabus, dates and prep tips.  

Difference Between Old and New SAT Format 

The following table throws light on the difference between the old SAT exam pattern followed up to 2022 December, and the latest introduced SAT Digital Exam for international students, which is to be conducted for the first time in March 2023: 

Areas of Difference 

Old SAT Exam 

New Digital SAT Exam

Mode of Administration 

On Paper 


Duration of Test 

3 hours 

2 hours 14 minutes 

Test Availability for International Students 

Upto the year 2022 

2023 year onwards 

Test Availability for US Students 

Upto the year 2023 

2024 year onwards 

SAT Reading & Writing Section Syllabus 


5 passages with 52 questions 

Writing Language 

4 passages with 44 questions 

A combined section of Reading & Writing (RW Section) includes 54 MCQs with short passages 

Total Length of SAT Reading & Writing Section 

100 minutes: Reading was for 65 minutes Writing for 35 minutes 

64 minutes 

SAT Math Section Syllabus 

No Calculator Section 

15 MCQs 5 student-produced questions 

Calculator Section 

30 MCQs 8 student-produced questions 

Calculators allowed for all questions. 33 MCQs 11 student-produced questions are asked. 

Total Length of SAT Math Section  

80 minutes 

70 minutes 




What has Changed in SAT?

There are certain changes proposed by the College Board for each of the testing sections of the SAT, like the Reading and Writing section will not be tested separately and the Math section includes all questions to be answered using the calculator. Then there are timing changes, a few changes in the pattern of SAT and other changes which have been elaborated below in each section.

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SAT Suite-level Changes 

The Digital SAT assessments are witnessing the following changes: 

  • SAT Digital tests are an hour shorter than the paper and pencil test which is now 2 hours and 14 minutes instead of the previously 3 hours. 
  • Digital SAT exam measures students’ skills and knowledge, not test-taking speed
  • On average, the new SAT Digital test offers more time to answer each question, more than before.  
  • Scores in the new SAT exam are released faster within 13 days instead of two to three weeks
  • The Digital SAT score reports would also help students access information and resources about local two-year colleges, training programs and career options. 
  • SAT Digital test will be more secure and if a test form is compromised, it may lead to cancelling scores for the entire group of students.  
  • Students can attempt seven times on a Digital SAT in a given year.
  • The format of the questions tested on the SAT has become more concise than the previously tested long passages and questions.
  • MCQ-type questions tested in SAT will allow students in reviewing and altering the option of the answer chosen, rather than the limitations on the OMR sheet which doesn't allow for a lot of changes. 
  • Each student is tested for SAT across a unique test form, which will make it absolutely impossible to share answers with other pupils. 

SAT Sectional Changes 

Along with the basic structure of SAT exam, the SAT syllabus has also been reviewed and a few changes have been incorporated. Check out the SAT sectional changes below: 

SAT Reading & Writing Section Changes

Instead of two different sections, timed differently for Reading and Writing, the SAT digital aims to have a single Reading and Writing section. This allows the test takers to be measured across the English language in the following areas: 

  • Arts and content area  
  • Literacy knowledge  
  • Skill efficiency 

SAT Digital RW Section would include shorter passages across a wider range of topics representing the kinds of works they’ll probably study in college. 

Check: SAT Digital Preparation Tips 2024 

SAT Math Section Changes 

Calculators are now allowed throughout the Math section exam of SAT rather than the previous Calculator Section testing. There’s only one single Math section which has replaced the two separately timed no-calculator and calculator-allowed sections.  

This change will allow the Math section to have more accurate answers and reflect how calculators are used in a timed environment. Students would be allowed to use their own calculators for the test. 

The average length of word problems has been reduced. These word problems would assess if students can apply their math skills and knowledge to both academic and real-world situations.  

SAT Digital Exam Timing Breakdown  

Each section tested in the digital SAT Digital exam has two broad sections.  

  • In order to complete the SAT RW Section, students will have just 64 minutes to complete the questions.  
  • Whereas, 70 minutes are allocated to complete the SAT Math Section having 35 minutes of answering in both sections.  
  • Each of the SAT testing modules is timed separately, which in turn allows students to move back and forward before time runs out.  
  • Whenever the time would run out on the current module of the section being attempted, the test automatically moves students to the next module.  
  • After students complete the RW section, they will be moved to the Math section after an interval of 10 minutes between the sections.  

The total testing time for the Digital SAT exam is 2 hours and 14 minutes.  

New SAT Format

The new SAT Digital Exam syllabus or format as proposed has been elaborated below for prospective students who would be appearing for the SAT Digital exam for the very first time:  

SAT Digital Testing Parameters 2023

SAT Digital Reading & Writing (RW) Section 

SAT Digital Math Section 



Two-staged: one tests Reading and the other the Writing section. Both are administered across separately timed modules. 

Two-staged: The math section is administered via two separately timed modules. 



Test length (total operational and pretest questions) 

1st module: 

  • 25 operational questions 
  • 2 pretest questions 

2nd module: 

  • 25 operational questions 
  • 2 pretest questions 

1st module: 

  • 20 operational questions 
  • 2 pretest questions 

2nd module: 

  • 20 operational questions 
  • 2 pretest questions 


Time Duration 

1st module: 32 minutes 

2nd module: 32 minutes 

1st module: 35 minutes 

2nd module: 35 minutes 

Total Questions 



Total Time Allocated 

64 minutes 

70 minutes 

Scores Reported 

Total score calculation: RW Math section scores 

Question Type(s) 

Discrete; MCQs with four options 

MCQ (75%) and student-produced response (25%) 

Topics Tested 

Literature, History / Social Studies, Humanities and Science 

Science, Social Science and real-world related topics 

Informational Graphics 

Tested, includes - tables, bar graphs, line graphs 

Also tested 

Students can keep a similar preparation strategy for SAT Digital exam also. The preparation material - books and resources for SAT are quite similar to the previous pencil paper test of SAT. 

Read more about SAT Sample Papers for practice. 

SAT Digital Exam Dates 2024

International students still wondering when SAT Digital will be conducted, can check out the following SAT dates for 2024 below: 

SAT Digital Test Date 2024

SAT Registration Deadline 

Deadline for Changes, and Regular Cancellation 

March 9, 2024

February 23, 2024

February 27, 2024

May 4, 2024

April 19, 2024

April 23, 2024

June 1, 2024

May 16, 2024

May 21, 2024

Students can also opt for their nearest SAT test centre to avoid the last-minute hassle of travelling far off. Since the pencil-paper SAT has been scrapped for international students starting from the year 2023, new students registering for SAT in 2023 will have to appear for the new Digital SAT Exam. This time, the Digital SAT exam results and scores will be released within a span of a few days, hence, students will receive their scores faster and will be able to send them across in time to the universities they have applied to abroad.

What Remains Unchanged in SAT?

Apart from the major changes proposed, there are a couple of things that have not changed in the SAT testing that happens to begin in this year March onwards for international students:

  • The overall scoring range of the new SAT remains unchanged that is, between 400-1600, where each section will be scored on the same scale of 200-400.
  • Students can still submit SAT scores in place of ACT scores, the SAT scores will be regarded equally as to the ACT test requirements.
  • Despite SAT going digital, applicants will still have to appear for the exam at their chosen test centre for giving the test.
  • The MCQ-based questions are still a part of the Digital SAT exam and remain unchanged.
  • Finally, the accommodation options available for students with disabilities also remains unchanged for those appearing for the SAT exam.

Still have queries, get in touch in the comments below. All the very best!

About the Author
Written by
Aishwarya Bhatnagar
Study Abroad Expert

Aishwarya is a professional Writer currently working as a Study Abroad Expert in the Editorial Team at Shiksha. She has over 5 years of experience and is skilled at creating Online Content with leveraged knowledge i... Read Full Bio

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a year ago

That was a wonderfully thorough article. I just have one question. Is there still the optional essay in DSAT? What's actually a pretest question? That we might can take before starting the actual exam as a means of warming up or getting sample idea? Finally, what does "Student produced questions" m


Reply to Afreen


Aishwarya BhatnagarStudy Abroad Expert

a year ago

Hello Afreen, thanks for writing in. The conducting authority College Board discontinued DSAT in June 2021, you can't take it up currently. Pretest questions are sample questions for practice. You can practice SAT mocks on the Bluebook app. Student-produced questions or SPR are answers to questions


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