Countdown to College Blog
During the 2023-24 school year, College Board will introduce digital testing on the PSAT and the SAT. Additionally, ACT is offering limited pilots of a digital test with plans to eventually offer a digital option to all students. With all of these changes in the works, we want to be sure Charlotte Christian families are equipped with the knowledge needed to navigate a changing testing landscape. Below please find answers to frequently asked questions.
When will digital tests be rolling out? Will paper tests still be available?
The digital PSAT will be introduced in October 2023 and the digital SAT will be introduced in March 2024. Once the digital tests are available, College Board will no longer be offering paper versions of the PSAT or SAT unless students qualify for that testing accommodation.
ACT has not released specific dates for the rollout of its digital test other than limited pilots in December 2023 and the targeted year of 2024 for digital tests to be available to all students. They will continue to offer a paper test once the digital test is available.
How will the digital PSAT and SAT be different from paper tests?
There are a few key differences between digital and paper tests:
- The digital test will be shorter, with two hours 14 minutes of testing time as opposed to three hours on the paper test.
- The digital test will be administered on a computer and will be computer adaptive (more below on what that means).
- Reading passages will be shorter.
- All math sections will now allow the use of a calculator and the calculator will be built into the test.
How will the digital PSAT and SAT be similar to paper tests?
There are a few key similarities between digital and paper tests:
- The digital tests will be administered at a school under the supervision of a proctor, not in the student’s home.
- The scoring scale and basic skills being tested remain the same.
- Testing accommodations, such as extended time, will still be available for students who qualify.
- Free test prep resources will still be available through Khan Academy.
What are the differences and similarities between the SAT and ACT?
In general, these two tests are very similar but there are a few key differences:
- The scoring scales are different, with the highest possible score on the SAT being 1600 and the highest possible score on the ACT being 36.
- The ACT includes a science section that the SAT does not include.
- The digital SAT will be computer adaptive but the digital ACT will not.
- The digital SAT will be two hours 14 minutes long, and the ACT (paper or digital) will be two hours 55 minutes long.
- Both tests have no penalty for a wrong answer, meaning that guessing is encouraged if the student is running out of time or cannot narrow down the answer choices.
- Both tests are widely accepted by college admission offices.
- Both the SAT and ACT have a fee of $60.
This infographic might be helpful in visualizing a comparison between the SAT and ACT.
What is a computer adaptive test?
On both the PSAT and the SAT, the Reading and Writing section and the Math section will each be split into two modules. The student’s performance in module one will determine whether they receive easier or harder questions in module two. The harder questions will have greater potential for more points and a higher overall score on the test.
Can students answer questions in any order they choose on the digital PSAT and SAT?
Yes and no. Students can only work on one module at a time, but within their current module, they can answer questions in any order. They can also flag questions to return to them later.
What test-taking tools will be built into the digital PSAT and SAT?
The following tools will be available to students taking the digital PSAT and SAT:
- A timer, which can be hidden if desired. The timer will provide an alert when five minutes are left in the test.
- The option to cross out answer choices that the student eliminates.
- The option to flag a question to return to later.
- A question menu displaying the questions that were skipped or flagged.
- A highlighter and annotation tool for reading comprehension passages.
- A formula sheet for math sections.
- A calculator for math sections (note that students can also use their own calculator if preferred).
Can students use scratch paper during the digital PSAT and SAT?
Yes. Scratch paper will be provided. Students should bring a writing utensil to the test.
How will students access the digital PSAT and SAT? Do they need an internet connection during the test?
Students will use the Bluebook app to access the digital PSAT and SAT, which we have already installed on their computers. They will need an internet connection at the start of the test to load it onto their computer and again at the end of the test to submit it to College Board. They do not need an internet connection while taking the test. Please note that students must log in to Bluebook using their College Board account credentials, meaning they must arrive at the test knowing their College Board username and password.
My student does not have a College Board account. How can we get one?
Please go to www.collegeboard.org and follow the link to create an account. This account will last your student throughout high school, so please make a note of their login information for future reference.
My student has previously created a College Board account but we’re having trouble logging in. How can we get help with this?
The fastest way to recover your student’s account credentials is to call College Board at (866) 630-9305.
Will tech support be available during the digital PSAT and SAT in case my student has a problem?
Yes. Students will take the digital PSAT at Charlotte Christian and our tech team will be available to provide support throughout the test. Students will take the digital SAT at a local school that serves as a test site and tech support will be on hand there as well.
What if a student’s computer loses charge during the test?
Each test center (CCS for the PSAT or another local school for the SAT) will have a charging station in each testing room, but students should bring their own charger in case they need to plug in during the test. Of course, students should arrive at the test with a fully charged computer to avoid this issue.
If my student takes a paper SAT and a digital SAT, can they superscore across the two types of tests?
College Board considers both test formats to be compatible enough to superscore across the two types. We assume that colleges will follow that recommendation but that is at the discretion of each individual college.
For more information, please join us for one of the following events where we will be discussing digital testing:
- Grade 11 College Planning Parent Night on Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Alkire Auditorium
- Keeping Up on Sept. 27 at 8 a.m. in the Huge Gallery
- Digital Testing Parent Q&A on Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. offered virtually using this link
As always, please feel free to work with your student’s college counselor as a resource in setting a plan for standardized testing. We’re glad to help!
Director of College Counseling