New SAT Format: Overview, How It Is Different From Old & Its Benefits

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Scholastic Assessment Test or SAT is a multiple-choice test to check a candidate’s readiness for university-level education. The SAT is designed to analyse an individual’s written, verbal and mathematical skills. Scoring well on SAT can be an added advantage to students seeking admission abroad. Standardised test results continue to be the great leveller across academic grading systems and socioeconomic backgrounds. Strong scores demonstrate a candidate’s cognitive talents and college preparation outside their school studies and internships.

Most universities in popular study-abroad destinations, such as the US and Canada, require students to submit SAT scores for undergraduate courses. Many of these universities also provide SAT-based scholarships

SAT Examination Overview

The SAT is categorised into two: SAT 1 and 2. The SAT 1 is a general test that assesses candidates’ verbal, writing, and mathematical abilities. SAT 2 is subject-specific and is suitable for students who want to demonstrate their proficiency in a specific subject. SAT 1 scores are usually sufficient for college courses.

As of October 2022, the SAT remains a pen-paper test. But, only fewer students were taking the SAT compared to the past years due to the shift to test-optional college admissions. To tackle this and to stay relevant with post-covid standards, SAT will be going entirely digital starting in 2023. Along will fully digitising the exam, the duration is also reduced to 2 hours. The dates from which this new format will come into effect are yet to be revealed, but experts claim this new development is beneficial for students. 

Let’s discuss why.

SAT format 2022

Before we dive deeper into the new format, let’s run through the current format of SAT. 

Currently, SAT is 3 hours long and is divided among sections, as shown below. The College Board has discontinued the optional SAT essay and the penalty deductions for the wrong answers along with the SAT subject tests.

Section Sub-section Number of Questions Time Limit (Min.) Score Range
Evidence-based Reading and Writing - Reading Test
- Writing and Language Test
- 52
- 44
- 65
- 35
Mathematics - Math with Calculator
- Math without a Calculator
- 38
- 20
- 55
- 25
Total - 154 180 400-1600

What’s changed? SAT new format 2023

SAT has upgraded its format every few years, but sources claim that this is the biggest SAT upgrade yet. Here is what is changing with SAT 2023!

  • SAT is Going Digital

Filling in bubbles during exams is getting quite old, so authorities have decided to make the SAT completely digital. The digital test is meant to increase testing security and convenience for test takers and comes as a major update. 

Students can take the test on a personal laptop or tablet or the one issued by the school. The students need to download a digital testing app before the test day. This testing app should save the students’ progress even if their computer crashes or they lose their internet connection.

From 2023 spring, international students will be able to take the SAT online under the provision of the assigned proctors at schools or testing centres. 

The timeline for the SAT format is as follows:

  1. March 2023: International test centres will start administering digital SAT.
  2. Fall 2023 (October 2023): All the test centres will administer the digital PSAT worldwide.
  3. Spring 2024: US test centres will start administering the digital SAT.
  • A Shorter New SAT Exam

The SAT Exam will be held for two hours instead of three. Instead of four, there will now be only 2 sections — a reading and writing section and a Math section. The reading section will have shorter passages, and students must answer one question per the SAT reading passage. The math questions will also be ‘less wordy’. 

These changes ensure that students stay informed and develop their opinions instead of being passive recipients of facts. Test-takers will also have more time to attempt the questions. 

  • Faster Delivery of Scores

The SAT scores will be released days after the exam instead of weeks. Hence, candidates won’t have to wait weeks or months to obtain the SAT exam result report, allowing them to apply for colleges more quickly.

  • Use of Calculator for the Entire Maths Section

SAT 2022 has sections for both calculator and non-calculator maths. However, the latest SAT 2023 format allows students to use calculators for the entire math section. A graphic calculator will be built into the digital testing app for students who do not have their own calculator. This eliminates the barrier for students and schools with fewer resources. 

SAT also plans to introduce a set of tools through the digital version of the testing app, including a timer, a reference sheet, and a flagging tool to mark the pending questions for review.

  • Each Test Will be Unique

Due to the digital format, the College Board can deliver a different test for every student to eliminate cheating and issues related to test security. Every section will start with an introductory module. The student’s performance on the first set of questions will then determine the level of all the subsequent questions they see. 

This adaptive nature of the test helps students connect to various career options, courses, and training programs. The schools, states, and districts will have more flexibility in scheduling tests. Currently, there are strict protocols on how and when the SAT exam will be delivered to maintain the integrity of the test.

Benefits of the New SAT Format 2023

The new SAT format is certainly a piece of good news for students. Here’s why! 

  • Perks of going digital: With streamlined testing and a digital interface, the SAT exam will provide a more productive experience for candidates seeking admission to top-tier colleges.
  • Time management: A shorter duration allows test takers to be more productive. Tickers and a clock on the screens help with time management by counting down the time until the end of the test and providing a 5-minute warning.
  • Multiple attempts: International students can attempt SAT up to 7 times a year. 
  • Concise questions: The questions will be more direct, with shorter portions and more time allotted to each question. This means you will have adequate time to think about each question. 
  • Unique for each individual: The correct responses in the first stage of an SAT section will further determine the difficulty level for the questions that the candidates will see in the next section. With this trait, you will be able to exhibit your individual capacity and career readiness. This factor is also meant to increase your chances of standing out. 
  • New tools: The new SAT format will feature a calculator and clock on the screen, with simple switching between questions and understandable math formulas.

Aspects That Remain Unchanged

The aspects or factors that have not changed from the existing SAT format are as follows:

  • Students will take the new test at a school or test centre, not at home.
  • The SAT scores will be calculated out of 1600. Each section (Reading & Writing and Math) will be scored on a scale of 800 points. The results of the new SAT will still be regarded as equal to those of the ACT and the present paper-based test.
  • Both sections will have multiple-choice questions. The content and the question types asked in the exam will remain the same.
  • Accommodations for approved students with medical needs or learning differences will still be available on test day.

SAT Cut-Off Scores for Universities Abroad

Though scores vary, an SAT score above 1500 is typically considered excellent. The top universities in Canada and the US hold candidates to high standards and usually expect an SAT score above 1400. However, these countries have universities that accept scores in the range of 1000-1200. Here’s a list.


SAT cut-off for the Top 5 universities in the US

Princeton 1505-1570
Harvard 1470
Columbia 1505
MIT 1500-1570
Stanford 1505

Universities in the US accepting SAT scores between 1000-1200

Eastern Mennonite University 1110
Regis University 1110
The University of Colorado Denver 1110
Rutgers University Camden 1080
Albion College 1050


SAT cut off for Top 5 universities in Canada

University of Toronto 1350
University of British Columbia 1400
McGill University 1460
McMaster University 1200
University of Montreal 1400

Universities in Canada accepting SAT scores between 1000-1200

Athabasca University 1200
Algoma University 1100
Acadia University 1100
Dalhousie University 1100
University of Manitoba 1100

Tips to prepare for the new digital SAT 2023

The digital format of SAT is not entirely different from the pen-paper test. Both versions require hard work and practice from your end. Additionally, following the tips below can increase your chances of scoring better.

  1. Start reading editorials, current affairs, and the latest environmental and geopolitical developments. Educate yourself on a good amount of humanities and science topics.
  2. The two crucial factors are to write something daily to improve your grammar and vocabulary.
  3. Practice math problems by working them out. Memorise formulas and shortcuts and also focus on trigonometry and geometry.
  4. If you are unfamiliar with computerised tests, take plenty of mock tests on the computer to get accustomed to it.
  5. Set a timer whenever you are attempting a mock test, and manage your time accordingly. 
  6. Look for the areas where you are falling short and put more effort into them.

The new SAT digitised format is easier to give and is more relevant. According to the College Board, 80% of the candidates found the new format less stressful. The new format is certainly expected to attract more candidates to take SAT exam. 

If you want to study abroad, LeapScholar is the place to start. Leap has helped thousands of students identify the best colleges and the right competitive exams to increase their admission chances. So, what are you waiting for? Start your journey today! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good SAT score?

Anything above 1350 is considered excellent. A score in the range of 1000-1100 is considered average. Universities such as Washington State University, Eastern Mennonite University, and University of Colorado Denver accept SAT scores between 1000-1100.

Will the new SAT format be easier?

The current SAT format is indeed being changed to make it easier for students. The digital version will be more convenient, and the shorter sections will allow for better time management. 

Can you take the new SAT format at home?

Though SAT is going digital, the test still has to be taken at an SAT centre or a university under the eyes of proctors. You cannot take SAT from your home.

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My 8-year long journey as a SAT trainer has been paved with considerable success, excellent feedback, and extremely satisfactory learning outcomes.