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The Digital Shift: Understanding the DSAT and Its Impact on College Admissions

With the unveiling of the Digital SAT (DSAT) by the College Board in 2022, there have been many discussions about its format and the significant changes introduced. In this blog post, we delve into a thorough comparison of the DSAT with the ACT and the current SAT to provide students, parents, and educators a clearer understanding of the DSAT and its potential implications for future test-takers.

DSAT Features:

  • Format: DSAT is administered in a proctored testing center, not at home, and consists of 98 questions in 2 hours, 24 minutes.

  • Sections: The test comprises two main sections: Reading/Writing and Math, each around one hour. The format adapts to a student's performance on the first set of questions to determine the difficulty of the second set.

  • Calculators: Unlike the paper SAT, calculators are permitted for all Math questions on the DSAT.

  • Internet: Requires internet connectivity and is designed to resume where you left off if there is a technical issue.

  • Scores: Scores are returned within days, not weeks, according to the College Board.

  • Study Material: The Official Digital SAT Study Guide is available for those who prefer printed materials. Practice questions can also be found on the College Board's Bluebook app.


  • Length: ACT and the paper-based SAT are longer than the DSAT. ACT is around 3 hours long, SAT is 3 hours and 15 minutes, and DSAT is 2 hours and 24 minutes.

  • Sections: ACT has four sections (English, Math, Reading, Science), SAT has four sections (Reading, Writing & Language, Math - No Calculator, Math - With Calculator), and DSAT has two main sections (Reading/Writing, Math).

  • Calculators: Calculators are permitted in all Math sections of ACT, SAT, and DSAT.

  • Score Release: ACT and SAT scores typically take a few weeks to be returned, while DSAT scores are expected to be returned within days.

  • Digital/Paper-Based: ACT and SAT offer both paper-based and digital formats, while DSAT is purely digital.

Transition from SAT to DSAT:

  • There has been a rush of test-takers opting for the paper-based SAT due to more practice material availability and preference for paper over digital tests.

  • The paper-based SAT will be phased out by December 2023.

  • Some students in the US are proactively opting for DSAT by traveling to nearby countries where it is administered, believing that DSAT better suits their strengths.

  • DSAT is also being taken by some 10th graders as a preparation for the digital PSAT in October 2023, which qualifies students for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

The shift to a digital format and section-level adaptivity makes the DSAT a fundamentally different exam from the ACT and the current SAT. The shorter test, adaptive nature, and digital format might make it easier for some students, but these factors could be potential hurdles for others.

As with any standardized test, the best way to excel is to familiarize yourself with the test format and practice extensively. For the DSAT, it's crucial to get comfortable with the adaptive nature of the test and understand how to effectively manage time during the exam.

Finally, remember that each test – DSAT, ACT, or current SAT – is simply a tool to help colleges assess a student’s readiness for college-level work. Ultimately, the choice of which test to take should be made based on a student's personal skills and comfort level with the test format and content.

If you need help deciding which test is right for you or need assistance in preparing for the DSAT, ACT, or SAT, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation.

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