Is the Digital SAT easier than the old paper SAT?

Many students and parents who were familiar with the old paper-based SAT are wondering whether the new Digital SAT will be easier.  The Digital SAT is designed to maintain the same level of rigor and predictive value for colleges as the paper SAT—otherwise, it wouldn’t be a useful tool to assess freshman-year readiness.  The College Board has done extensive research to ensure that Digital SAT scores align with paper SAT scores.  That being said, students I have tutored have generally found the new Digital SAT to be much less intimidating and more approachable than the paper SAT.  Here are ten reasons why most students will find the Digital SAT easier than the paper SAT. 

1.  Test fatigue is much less of an issue.  While the paper SAT was over three hours long, the Digital SAT is only a little over two hours.  This is possible because of the section-adaptive format of the Digital SAT:  students start with modules of average difficulty and then progress to either more or less challenging modules based on their first module performance.  Most students find that sustaining their attention for a little over two hours is quite manageable, making the Digital SAT less overwhelming than the paper SAT. 

2.  Less time wasted on double-checking.  On the paper SAT, many students found it difficult to avoid looking back at their previous answers since they could easily be seen.  Also, they had concerns about their bubbling in of the paper answer sheets. On the Digital SAT, students will only view one question at a time, making it much easier to compartmentalize their focus on one task.  Also, students click on the answer instead of physically bubbling, and they can easily see that the answer choice they selected is recorded by the computer. 

3.  Calculators are available throughout the math section.  The paper SAT had a no-calculator section; even though all the problems on this section could have been done without a calculator, many students found it more challenging than the calculator math section.  On the Digital SAT, students can bring a calculator of their own to use for the math sections.  Moreover, they have access to the powerful Desmos™ calculator that is built into the testing interface.  The functionality of the Desmos™ calculator allows students to easily graph parabolas, systems of equations, and even tables. 

4.  Fewer questions on obscure grammar concepts.  The Digital SAT focuses on grammar fundamentals:  subject-verb agreement, verb tense, punctuation, modifier placement, and transitions.  Unlike the old SAT, which also tested idioms, diction, and wordiness, students will find that they can focus their grammar study on certain concepts.  For example, understanding the rules of semicolon and colon usage can go a long way on the Digital SAT. 

5. The question stems are more predictable.  Unlike the paper SAT, which had a wide variety of question wording, the questions on the Digital SAT are quite consistent.  Students will find certain question stems repeated over and over: 

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?  

Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?

Which choice most logically completes the text? 

Which choice completes the text so that it conforms to the conventions of Standard English?  Which choice completes the text with the most logical transition?  

Having these consistent question stems allows students to get in a better testing rhythm and devote more time to thinking about their answers instead of trying to understand what they are asked to do. 

6.  The reading and writing selections are concise.  The old paper SAT had just a few reading and writing passages, each of which was several hundred words.  If a student found a topic uninteresting on these sorts of passages, it was easy for them to lose focus.  On the Digital SAT, the reading and writing passages are no longer than 150 words and are accompanied by a single question.  While a shorter text doesn’t necessarily mean an easier text, it does mean that students will often find them less daunting than the longer old SAT passages. 

7.  Proctor errors are less of a concern.  I have had some past tutoring students experience proctor errors during their testing—in particular, the proctor called “time” too early or too late.  Since the timing on the Digital SAT is done within the testing application, students need not worry about time being called early.  If they hide the countdown clock, it will automatically reappear when 5 minutes remain.  That way, students can be sure they answer every question before they run out of time. 

8. Students can use their own tablet or computer.  Familiarity brings comfort—students can practice on the same tablet or computer they want to use on test day.  Students can take control of their testing process by ensuring their computer is fully charged and in good working order.  There should be a minimal disconnect between practice tests and real tests when the device is the same for each. 

9.  The questions are less wordy.  Both the reading/writing and the math questions on the Digital SAT are generally shorter than those found on the paper SAT.  If students take their time carefully reading the questions, they are unlikely to make careless reading errors. 

10.  The Digital SAT is almost exactly like the Digital PSAT.  While there are slight differences in the content tested on the SAT and PSAT, the two tests have the same format and time restrictions.  Students who took the PSAT in the fall will feel comfortable knowing that they have already seen the computer interface and question types they will see on the Digital SAT. 

All told, students should look at the new Digital SAT not as something to be feared, but as an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate their academic skills to colleges. 

Digital SAT Writing Transitions Practice Questions

1. The following is an excerpt from The Dorrington Deed-box by Arthur Morrison:


As for Dorrington, he had his hundred pounds reward. But the bill for £10,000 he never presented. Why, I do not altogether know, unless he found that Mr. Mallows’s financial position, as he had hinted, was not altogether so good as was supposed.  __________ it was found among the notes and telegrams in this case in the Dorrington deed-box.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. In other words,
B. At any rate,
C. Whatever,
D. On the other hand,

2. The following is an excerpt from Sanders of the River, By Edgar Wallace:


The Hon. George Tackle had the good fortune to be the son of his father; otherwise, I am free to confess he had no claim to distinction.  __________ his father, being the proprietor of the Courier and Echo (with which are incorporated I don’t know how many dead and gone stars of the Fleet Street firmament), George had a “pull” which no amount of competitive merit could hope to contend with.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. But
B. While
C. So
D. Thus

3. The following is an excerpt from The Pathless Trail by Arthur O. Friel:


Sleep enveloped the huts. Snores and gurgles rose and fell. Tim himself, for the sake of effect, snored heartily at intervals, __________ his eyes never closed. Through his mosquito bar he could see only vaguely, but he knew any man walking from the crew’s quarters must cast a very visible shadow across that net, and to him the shadow would be as good a warning as a clear view of the substance. But the hours crept on, and no shadow came.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. and
B. though
C. since
D. for

4. The Following is an excerpt from Bones in London, By Edgar Wallace:


The Tibbetts-Jelf Lamp was something new in motor lamps. It was a lamp which had all the advantages of the old lamp, plus properties which no lamp had ever had before, and it had none of the disadvantages of any lamp previously introduced, and, __________ had no disadvantages whatsoever. So Jelf told Bones with great earnestness.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. however,
B. finally,
C. in fact,
D. therefore,

5. The following is an excerpt from The Keepers of The King’s Peace by Edgar Wallace:


The Wiggle, moreover, possessed many attributes which are denied to other small steamers. She had, __________  a Maxim gun on her tiny forecastle. She had a siren of unusual power and diabolical tone, she was also fitted with a big motor-horn, both of which appendages were Bones’s gift to his flagship.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?


A. on the other hand,
B. however,
C. completely,
D. for example

6. The following is an excerpt from Kidnapped by Robert Lois Stevenson:

I was abashed how to find expression for my thanks; but she was no less abashed at the thought of hearing them; begged us to lose no time and to hold our peace, saying (very properly) that the heart of our matter was in haste and silence; __________ what with one thing and another, she had set us on the Lothian shore not far from Carriden, had shaken hands with us, and was out again at sea and rowing for Limekilns, before there was one word said either of her service or our gratitude.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?


A. therefore,
B. because,
C. but,
D. and,

7. The following is an excerpt from Caves of Terror by Talbot Mundy


The tiny portions that melted and liquefied became full of motion, __________ the motion was never in one place for more than about a minute at a time; and wherever the motion had been the lump lost bulk, so that gradually the whole piece shrank and shrank.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. while
B. although
C. so
D. because

8. The following is an excerpt from The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope:

After that we called on Bertram Bertrand, a versifier of some repute and Paris correspondent to The Critic. He had a very comfortable suite of rooms, and we found some pleasant fellows smoking and talking. It struck me, __________ that Bertram himself was absent and in low spirits, and when everybody except ourselves had gone, I rallied him on his moping preoccupation.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. however,
B. on one hand,
C. therefore,
D. nevertheless,

9. The following is an excerpt from the introduction to She, by H. Rider Haggard:

That same evening my visit came to an end, and this was the last I saw or heard of “Charon” and “the Greek god” for many a long day. __________ I have never seen either of them from that hour to this, and do not think it probable that I shall. But a month ago I received a letter and two packets, one of manuscript, and on opening the first found that it was signed by “Horace Holly,” a name that at the moment was not familiar to me.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. While,
B. Therefore,
C. Indeed,
D. Nevertheless,

10. The following is an excerpt from The Lion of Petra by Talbot Mundy:

The beginning as concerns me was when I moved into quarters in Grim’s mess in Jerusalem. As a civilian and a foreigner I could not have done that, __________ if it had been a real mess; but Grim, who gets fun out of side-stepping all regulations, had established a sort of semi-military boarding-house for junior officers who were tired of tents, and he was too high up in the Intelligence Department for anybody less than the administrator to interfere with him openly.

Which choice completes the text with the most logical and precise word or phrase?

A. but,
B. in addition,
C. while,
D. of course,

Solutions

1. B.  The information before the blank is saying that the author doesn’t exactly know why Dorrington never cashed the 10,000-pound check. The sentence with the blank is saying that the check was found in his possession. The author is not repeating previous information, so answer A is incorrect. Answer C makes no logical sense. Answer D is incorrect because the author is not contrasting the two sentences. Instead, the author is offering more information about the check, making option B the best answer.

2. A. The general meaning of this passage is that George Tackle had no reason to be notable, except that his father was notable. This makes option A the best answer since we are contrasting the lack of importance of the son with the “pull” he gets from his father. Option B is incorrect as it makes the second sentence a fragment. Options C and D are incorrect as the author is not showing cause and effect. 

3. B. Here, the author is setting up a contrast. We learn that Tim is making snoring noises, but he is still watching through the mosquito netting for a shadow. Therefore, he isn’t actually asleep. The only answer option that shows the contrast between the snoring noises and his being awake is option B.

4. C. Notice the word “and” before the blank. This eliminates option A. Option B is incorrect as we are not placing things in order. Option D is incorrect as the author is not concluding. The author is offering additional information, making option C the best answer.

5. D. In this passage, the second sentence is showing an example of an attribute The Wiggle had which other small steamers did not have. This makes option D the only appropriate answer.

6. D. The author is offering more information here. The woman has refused thanks and set them on the shore. This makes option D the best answer. The author is not showing cause and effect, making A and B incorrect and is not showing contrast, making option C incorrect.

7. B. The sentence shows that the portions are full of motion. The author wants to contrast this with the motion never being regular or in one place. This contrast is best shown in answer B. Answer A leaves the sentence a fragment. Options C and D do not show contrast.

8. A. The context clue here is that they found “pleasant fellows” but Bertram was “in low spirits” these are two contrasting emotions, making “however” the best answer. Option B would need to be placed with the first item of contrast, not the second. Option C shows cause and effect, not contrast. Option D does not fit into the context of the sentence.

9. C. In this sentence, the author is adding more information to emphasize the information in the first sentence that “this was the last I saw or heard of [them] for many a long day”. This makes option C the best answer as it shows that what is coming next is additional information. Option A does not fit into the sentence structure of the second sentence. Option B shows cause and effect. Option D shows contrast.

10. D. The first sentence sets up that he could not do what he did. The second sentence explains why he could do that after all (by breaking rules). The keeping of the rules is to be assumed, thus “of course” is the best answer. The breaking of rules is not to be assumed. Options A, B, and C do not fit into the structure of the sentence.

Digital SAT Rhetorical Synthesis Practice Questions

1. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • In Rome, there still remain ruins of the Temple of Apollo Palatinus which was constructed in the first century BCE.
  • In the late 1st century CE the temple underwent a restoration after being fire damaged in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE
  • The temple was almost completely destroyed in another fire in 363 CE
  • If you visit Rome today you will only be able to see the core of the temple’s podium and some other fragments which were excavated in the mid-1800s.

The student wants to educate visitors to Rome as to why they can’t see the entire temple today. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. Because of an excavation in the 1800s, parts of the temple including the podium, are visible to modern visitors to the site.
B. After the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE the entire temple underwent a restoration so that it could continue being used.
C. The Temple of Apollo Palatinus was originally built over 2000 years ago.
D. After its nearly complete destruction in a fire in 363, the Temple of Apollo Palatinus was not restored, leaving only fragments.

2. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • The Fountain and Tallman Museum is located in the historic Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building in Placerville California.
  • The building is unique in its construction as it has stone walls that are over two feet thick—originally designed to keep ice and other soda making equipment cool. The thick walls are why it still stands when most other buildings from that era have not survived.
  • In addition to being a soda water factory, the building was also used as a jail and an office space for a gas company.
  • In the late 1900s the building was donated to a local historical society and was set up as a museum of local history.

The student wants to introduce the historic Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building to an audience that has never heard of it before. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. The Fountain- Tallman Soda Works building is a historic building in Placerville California that was built as a soda water factory but has served the community in several capacities since its construction.
B. The Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building is currently a museum with walls that are over two feet thick.
C. The Fountain and Tallman Museum started with the donation of a building to a local historical society in the late 1900s.
D. The Fountain and Tallman Museum was originally built as a soda water factory, but does not remain a factory today.

3. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (BVM) and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (TBV) are two different products with different standards.
  • BVM has lower standards, and is much less expensive, is often aged only briefly, and contains  some ingredients that are not traditional.  It is protected under the weak European protected geographical indication (PGI).
  • TBV is aged at least 12 years, but often much longer, and has stricter controls on ingredients as well as origin as it is regulated under the strong European protected designation of origin (PDO).
  • Neither PGI nor PDO are able to be enforced in the U.S. so if consumers want to purchase real balsamic vinegar, they must be careful to read the name and look for the PDO or PGI seal on the label.

The student wants to explain to readers in the United States the variety of goods they might see labeled as “balsamic vinegar” in the grocery store. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. Both BVM and TBV can be found in the United States, but only if a discerning shopper knows where to look.
B. Because PGI and PDO are not enforced in the United States, a wide range of products, from artificially dyed vinegar to authentic TBV and BVM, may be labeled as balsamic vinegar in American stores.
C. Authentic BVM and TBV both have strict quality controls at their points of origin in northern Italy. Shoppers can be confident of authenticity by looking for PDO and PGI seals.
D. BVM and TBV are both protected in some way, with BVM having lower standards and TBV having higher standards.

4. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • As a type of antibody, Immunoglobulin G (IgG), binds with many pathogens in the body in order to protect the body from infections brought on by viruses, bacteria, and fungi, among others.
  • IgG is the most common antibody in blood circulation and makes up around 75% of serum antibodies in humans.
  • If doctors suspect certain conditions, they may measure a patient’s levels of IgG as a diagnostic tool.
  • IgG plays a key role in newborn immunity as infants inherit IgG from their mothers through both placenta while in utero and through breast milk once born.

The student wants to include in her essay a sentence that will highlight the importance of IgG to all humans. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. IgG makes up around 75% of the average human’s serum antibodies and plays a key role in protecting the body from a wide range of infections.
B. Infants receive IgG in multiple ways from their mothers, including through the placenta and through breast milk.
C. IgG levels are used by doctors occasionally as a diagnostic indicator for certain specific conditions.  
D. While important, IgG is not the only antibody that helps support immune reaction in humans who have been infected by a virus, bacteria, or fungi.

5. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • Mary Quant was one of the designers who helped to define 1960’s style in the United States and Great Britain.
  • Quant specialized in youthful looks with bold colors, blocky shapes, and wild patterns, though her earlier work was a bit softer and more delicate than her later work.
  • While Quant claimed to have invented the mini-skirt, some people dispute this claim, saying that the mini-skirt was invented by one of several other designers or that it was not invented by any one person, but was rather the logical end point of a continuous trend of shorter hem lengths.
  • In addition to clothing, Quant designed headwear, household goods, and personal care items, like makeup.

The student would like to explain to designers already familiar with Quant the range of her designs. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. Quant designed not just clothes we now consider classic, like the mini skirt, but also tried her hand at designing household goods, hats, and makeup.
B. Quant had a distinctive style that changed slightly over the course of her career, moving from slightly more soft and delicate to wild patterns and colors.
C. Mary Quant helped shaped style in the 1960s with her design for the now famous miniskirt.
D. With the consistently shortening hemline as a general trend, Mary Quant showed her design skill by creating the mini-skirt, a now famous look.

6. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • While China’s imperial era is often associated with Emperors, Empress Dowager Cixi who lived from 1835 until 1908 had effective rule over the country from 1861 until her death.
  • Cixi came to power when emperor Zianfeng died, leaving Cixi’s son to inherit the throne at age five.
  • Cixi schemed to overthrow other appointed regents and served as co-regent alongside another advisor Empress Dowager Ci’an for her son’s entire life, since he was seen as a weak ruler.
  • Upon her son’s death Cixi conspired to have her young nephew placed on the throne so that she could continue in her role as regent.

The student would like to explain how Cixi managed to remain regent for so long. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. Empress Dowager Cixi reigned as regent for more than 70 years, an impressive feat for any ruler, but most especially for a female ruler of the 19th century.
B. As one of the backbones of China’s imperial era, Empress Dowager Cixi is likely remembered as the longest reigning female monarch, though she was only technically the regent.
C. In order to ensure her power, Cixi overthrew other regents so that she could control the monarchy through her son.
D. Cixi reigned for over 70 years by first serving for regent for her son and then, after his death, scheming to have her nephew put on the throne so that she could continue as regent.

7. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • The first woman to ever be granted membership in the Entomological Society, Cynthia Evelyn Longfield was a renowned entomologist who specialized in the study of dragonflies.
  • Born in 1896, Longfield served in the Army Service Corps in World War One. After the war she traveled extensively, collecting specimens for the Natural History Museum of London.
  • In World War Two she served in the Auxiliary Fire Service.
  • Later in life she was a cataloguer at the Natural History Museum and collected 38 species of butterflies on a trip to South America. Three of those species had never been seen before.

The student wants to emphasize Longfield’s dedication to public service. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. Longfield is best remembered for her trip to South America, on which she catalogued 3 species of dragonflies which had never been seen before.
B. As the first woman to be granted membership in the Entomological Society, Longfield is well remembered in certain circles for her pioneering work with dragonflies.
C. While she is remembered for her entomological work, Longfield served her country in both World Wars I and II first in the Army Service Corps and Later in the Auxiliary Fire Service.
D. Longfield once, in her job for the Natural History Museum, collected 38 species in one single trip to South America.


8. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • Kepler-90 is a star around 2,000 light years away from earth in the Draco constellation. It’s planetary system is quite similar to ours, as was discovered by the Kepler mission in the early 21st century.
  • The Kepler mission was designed to discover planets that orbit their stars by measuring dips in brightness of the stars as the plants cross them.
  • Kepler-90 has 8 planets just like our solar system’s sun does, however, it is thought that several of the planets that orbit Kepler-90 do not rotate on their axes, leaving them half in the dark, much like Earth’s moon.
  • Kepler-90 cannot be seen with the naked eye from Earth.

The student wants to explain the purpose of the Kepler mission and what it discovered at Kepler-90. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. The Kepler mission measured the light coming from stars including Kepler-90—a star about 2,000 light years away from earth.
B. Designed to discover planets orbiting stars, one of the Kepler mission’s findings was the eight planets orbiting Kepler-90, some of them not turning on their axes.
C. Since Kepler-90 cannot be seen with the naked eye, it took a special mission, the Kepler mission, to discover its 8 orbiting planets.
D. The Kepler mission confirmed the presence of many planets by measuring dips in light coming from far distant stars.

9. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • Yang Xiong was a Chinese author and philosopher of the early 1st century CE. He was well-known in his time in the Han dynasty.
  • Yang gained enough praise and acclaim, that he was summoned to imperial capital where he was an officer in charge or composing fu as well as poetry for the emperor.
  • Yang did not think that the nature of humanity was inherently bad or good, but rather, he philosophized that human nature was a mixture of both.
  • His most famous work, Exemplary Sayings, is remembered for his critique of his contemporaries for their overly elaborate writings and their seeming inability to address the greater moral issues of the day.  

A student wants to give an overview of the beliefs of Yang Xiong. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. As a Chinese philosopher of the early 1st century CE, Yang Xiong wrote for the emperor on a regular basis. His work was both poetry and fu as the situation demanded.
B. Exemplary Sayings is Yang Xiongs most well remembered work because  it contained criticisms of other writers.
C. Yang held that man was duel in nature, containing a mix of good and evil and that this and other philosophical concepts should be addressed in the writing of his time.
D. Yang Xiong shunned the elaborate writing of his contemporaries.

10. While researching a topic a student has taken the following notes:

  • In many building trades like woodworking, masonry, and metalworking, workers use what is known as a combination square for a multitude of situations.
  • The combination square is made up of a ruler, and one of may different heads that can be slid over or along the ruler. A worker might use a standard head, a protractor head, or a center finding head.
  • The modern combination square dates back to the 1970s and can be used with its standard head to make 90 degree markings, miter corners, check whether a surface is level, gauge depth, and other activities vital in building.
  • With other heads, the abilities of the combination square are much more complex.

A student wants to explain to a friend a situation in which a combination square with a standard head might be useful. Which choice most effectively uses relevant information from the notes to accomplish this goal?

A. The combination square can be used for a great many things, especially if the person using it has more than one head for the tool.
B. With a standard head, a combination square could be used in building to make sure walls are level and corners meet at exact right angles.
C. Woodworkers, masons, and metalworkers all use the combination head in their daily jobs.
D. Depending on the situation, a builder may switch out the heads of a combination square to complete different tasks.

Solutions

1. D. The question requires that the answer explain why the entire temple can’t be seen today. While the notes given do include information on an early fire, it also explains that the temple was restored after that first fire in 64 CE. That would point us to the second fire in 363 CE as the final destruction of the temple and the reason why it is not visible today, making answer option D the correct answer. Answer option A explains why parts are visible today, but not why the rest of the temple is not visible. Answer option B explains the earlier destruction prior to the restoration. Answer option C includes information that does not answer the question.

2. A. The question asks for a general introduction to the building for an audience that is completely unfamiliar with the building. This makes answer A the best option as it gives the best broad background for the building. Option B gives just one detail of the building, not an introduction. Option C gives an introduction to the museum, not the building. Option D gives the origin of the building, but no information as to the rest of its history or relevance today.

3. B. The question asks about the variety found on the stores in the U.S. The final note of the set indicates that, due to lack of protections, in addition to real BVM or TBV there are many knock off products in the U.S. This makes option B the best to answer the question. Option A does not explain the variety available beyond BVM and TBV. Option C explains how to find BVM and TBV, but not what else is on shelves. Option D explains the protections on BVM and TBV but not the variety of other goods available.

4. A. The question asks about the importance of IgG to all humans. Option A best explains that IgG plays a key role in protecting all humans from illnesses. Option B explains how infants get IgG, but not its role. Option C explains how it can be a useful diagnostic, but only for people with certain conditions, not for all humans. Option D implies that IgG is plays only a part in immunity and therefore does not highlight its importance to all humans.

5. A. The question asks for an answer that assumes the reader already knows something about Mary Quant and that explains her range beyond just fashion design. Answer A fulfills this prompt by explaining that she designed household goods, hats, and makeup. Option B is incorrect as it explains a slight and gradual change over time, not a wide range of designs. Option C is incorrect as it gives a general introduction to Quant, but does not explain the range of her designs. Option D is incorrect as it addresses just one of her designs instead of showing her range.

6. D. The question asks for an explanation of how Cixi managed to rule for so long as regent. Option D explains this the best by telling the reader that Cixi ruled not just during her son’s childhood, but also by placing another child on the throne after her son’s death. Options A and B are incorrect as they do not explain how she ruled for 70 years. Option C is incorrect as it explains how Cixi came to power, but not how she retained that power for 70 years.

7. C. The question asks for information on Longfield’s public service, not her entomological activities. This makes C the best option and A, B, and D incorrect.

8. B. The question asks for the purpose of the Kepler mission and what was discovered at Kepler-90. Option B is the best answer as it explains that Kepler was designed to discover planets orbiting stars (its purpose) and what it found at Kepler-90 (8 orbiting plants, some of which do not turn on their axes). Option A explains what Kepler did, but not what it discovered at Kepler-90. Option C explains why the Kepler mission was necessary, but not what its purpose was. Option D does not explain specifically what was discovered at Kepler-90.

9. C. The question asks about Yang Xiong’s beliefs. This is best summed up in option C. Option A explains his work. Option B explains why his work Exemplary Sayings is remembered. Option D explains his attitude toward his contemporaries.

10. B. The question asks for a situation in which a combination square with a standard head would be used. We learn in the notes that with a standard head, the combination square can be used to mark 90 degree (right) angles, miter corners, check for level surfaces, and gauge depth. This makes answer B the best option and the other answer incorrect.

Digital SAT Poetry Practice Reading Questions

1. A student claims that Will Carleton’s Poem “Autumn Days” contrasts the sweetness of some autumn days in the first stanza with a far different type of autumn days in the second stanza. What pair of lines from the first and second stanzas respectively best illustrate this claim?


A. O’er the dreamy, listless haze/O’er the cheerless, withered plain.
B. Yellow, mellow, ripened days/ Shivering, quivering, tearful days.
C. And the sombre, furrowed fallow/ Woefully and hoarsely calling.
D. Winking at the blushing trees/On thy scanty vestments falling.

2. The following is an excerpt from the poem “We Wait” by Will M. Carleton

Or if upon the field of war we stand,
And sword with sword for mastery we mate,
Grim Death, and radiant Glory, hand in hand,
Approaching us with silent step we see;
And one of them, we vow, for us must be;
Bravely we strive to win renown’s estate,
And still we wait.

And when we grope within the gloom of age,
When our few steps grow feeble and sedate,
We cast our eyes back o’er a blotted page;
We peer among the pictures of the past,
We gaze upon the future, overcast;
Our musings all with hopes and fears we freight;
And still we wait.

Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?


A. To illustrate the abeyancy of life, even as death approaches.
B. To force the reader to consider his own fate.
C. To illustrate the futility of war.
D. To explain the purposelessness of life.

3. The following is an excerpt from the poem “We Hope” by Will M. Carleton


Then we yearn and call for comfort; but no comfort comes unto us,
And we wrap ourselves in sadness, and Despair goes thrilling thou’ us;
And the darkness gathers round us, with its horrors, half-unspoken,
And we pray again for succor: that the fearful spell be broken,
With the light of something shining, be it only but a ray.

Then within our hearts a blossom, from the dreary mould is springing,
Then the birds of Hope make music, with their sweet and cheerful singing;
Then, upon the great clouds gazing, we discern their silver lining,
And at last, through veils of blackness, bursts the sunbeam’s glorious shining,
And upon our raptured vision beams the light of perfect day

Which choice best describes the function of the underlined portion in the text as a whole?


A. It minimizes the role of hope to “but a ray”.
B. It firmly emphasizes the despair of the writer.
C. It clarifies the despair that was described earlier in the passage.
D. It introduces a visual for hope that will be further built upon in the poem.

4. The following is an excerpt from the poem “The House Where We Were Wed” by Will M. Carleton

I’ve been to the old farm-house, good-wife,
Where you and I were wed;
Where the love was born to our two hearts
That now lies cold and dead.
Where a long-kept secret to you I told,
In the yellow beams of the moon,
And we forged our vows out of love’s own gold,
To be broken so soon, so soon!

Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?


A. To tell someone of a trip made, in the light of a broken relationship.
B. To set the stage for a future argument.
C. To argue that marriage is a fruitless endeavor.
D. To help the reader feel the author’s pain after the death of his wife.

5. The following is an excerpt from the poem “Apple Blossoms” by Will M. Carleton


Naught within her eyes he read
That would tell her mind unto him;
Though their light, he after said,
Quivered swiftly through and through him;
Till at last his heart burst free
From the prayer with which ‘twas laden,

And he said, “When wilt thou be
Mine for evermore, fair maiden?”


Which choice best describes the function of the underlined portion in the text as a whole?


A. To clarify the emotional source of the following quotation.
B. To explain a medical condition from which he is suffering.
C. To show the religious fervor with which he lives his life.
D. To build on the previous description of her eyes.

6. An instructor claims that “Lines Written in Early Spring” contains the introspective thoughts of the author. Which quotation from the poem best supports this claim?


A. “And ‘tis my faith that every flower/Enjoys the air it breathes.”
B. “The birds around me hopp’d and play’d/ Their thoughts I cannot measure”
C. “In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts/ Bring sad thoughts to the mind.”
D. “I heard a thousand blended notes/While in a grove I sat reclined.”

7. The following is an excerpt from “The Dungeon” as published in Lyrical Ballads With a Few Other Poems.


And this place our forefathers made for man!
This is the process of our love and wisdom,
To each poor brother who offends against us—
Most innocent, perhaps—and what if guilty?
Is this the only cure? Merciful God?
Each pore and natural outlet shrivell’d up
By ignorance and parching poverty,
His energies roll back upon his heart,
And stagnate and corrupt; till changed to poison,
They break out on him, like a loathsome plague-spot;
Then we call in our pamper’d mountebanks—
And this is their best cure! uncomforted
And friendless solitude, groaning and tears,
And savage faces, at the clanking hour,
Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeon,
By the lamp’s dismal twilight! So he lies
Circled with evil, till his very soul
Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed
By sights of ever more deformity!


Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?


A. It examines the purpose of a dungeon form the point of view of a jailor.
B. It critiques a solution that society has found to a common issue.
C. It asks a question about the worth of humanity.
D. It sheds a negative light on how humanity handles a problem.

8. The following is an excerpt from the poem “Expostulation and Reply”. The author speaks to his friend, Matthew:

“The eye it cannot chuse but see,
“We cannot bid the ear be still;
“Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
“Against, or with our will.

“Nor less I deem that there are powers,
“Which of themselves our minds impress,
“That we can feed this mind of ours,
“In a wise passiveness.

“Think you, mid all this mighty sum
“Of things for ever speaking,
“That nothing of itself will come,
“But we must still be seeking?

“—Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
“Conversing as I may,
“I sit upon this old grey stone,
“And dream my time away.”


Which choice best describes the function of the underlined portion in the text as a whole?


A. It questions the author’s purpose.
B. It asks Matthew a philosophical question.
C. It highlights a subject for which the author is passionate.
D. It explains an earlier statement.

9. A student reads “Old Man Travelling; Animal Tranquility and Decay, A Sketch” and observes that the old man in the poem seems at great peace with his life. Which of the following excerpts from the poem best supports this claim?

A.”Sir! I am going many miles to take/A last leave of my son, a mariner,/ Who from a sea-fight has been brought to Falmouth/ And there is dying in an hospital.”
B. “He travels on, and in his face, his step,/ His gait, is one expression;/ every limb,/ His look and bending figure, all bespeak/ A man who does not move with pain.”
C. “He is one by whom/ All effort seems forgotten, one to whom/ Long patience has such mild composure given/ That patience now doth seem a thin, of which/He hath no need. He is by nature led.”
D. “The young behold/ With envy, what the old man hardly feels./ I asked him whither he was bound, and what/ The object of his journey.”

10. The following is the poem “Why Do Ye Call The Poet Lonely?” By Archibald Lampman

Why do ye call the poet lonely,
Because he dreams in lonely places?
He is not desolate, but only
Sees, where ye cannot, hidden faces.


Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?

A. It asks and answers a question about those who write poetry.
B. It hypothesizes as to what makes people want to write poetry.
C. It gives an explanation as to why much poetry is sad.
D. It opens up the reader to ask questions of poets.

Answer Explanations

  1. B. The question asks for evidence to show a contrast between two different types of autumn days. Answer option B shows two types of days in the fall, one that is yellow (leaf color), mellow (meaning calm), and ripened (as the harvest on the vine). The other is shivering and quivering (cold) as well as tearful (raining). This makes option (B) the best answer. (A) and (C) are incorrect as they only describe one setting, not two. Option (D) is incorrect as it does not describe a day at all, but rather leaves falling.
  2. A. In this poem we see at the end of both stanzas “And still we wait”. The author describes this waiting even when death is near and in every situation. He seems to be telling the reader that life is just a game of waiting. This purpose is best described in answer option (A) since the word abeyancy describes a situation of disuse, suspension, or waiting. Answer option (B) is incorrect for, while a reader may consider his own fate, this does not seem to be the main purpose of the poem. Answer (C) is incorrect as the author seems to be describing the futility of all things, not just war. Answer (D) is incorrect as the poem gives no explanation as to the purposelessness of life that the author sees.
  3. D. In the underlined section the author introduces the idea of visual light. In the second stanza he builds on this image of a single ray of light by describing the emerging “sunbeam’s glorious shining” and “the light of perfect day.” In this way, the light represents a visual image of the hope bursting through dark clouds of sadness. This makes option (D) the best answer. The other answer options do not appropriately understand that the visual light represents hope and that it grows to a sunburst in stanza 2.
  4. A. The opening lines of this poem tells the author’s “good-wife” that he has “been to the old farm house… where you and I were wed”. He is telling her he has gone back to where their marriage started. The end of this first stanza sheds light on the current status of their relationship “we forged our vows… to be broken soon.” Their marriage vows, and thus their relationship, are broken. This makes option (A) the best answer. We have no evidence of a future argument, so option (B) is incorrect. The author knows that his marriage is over, but does not try to say that all marriages are pointless, making option (C) incorrect. There is no evidence that the wife is dead, just that they are separated, making option (D) incorrect.
  5. A. The underlined portion describes his heart “bursting free” from “the prayer with which ‘twas laden” thereafter the man spills his heart to the girl and asks her to stay with him forever. These words of his are from his heart. This makes (A) the best option. The underlined portion explains the source of his ardent outburst. Option (B) is incorrect as his heart is not literally bursting, but figuratively bursting. Option (C) is incorrect as there is no religious undertones to the underlined section. Option (D) is incorrect as the underlined portion describes the source of his words, not her eyes.
  6. C. To be introspective is to think about one’s self and one’s own thoughts and emotions. Answer option (C) is the only answer that gives us a glimpse into the author’s mind to support the teacher’s claim that the author is “introspective”. Answer (A) describes the author’s belief about flowers. Answer (B) and (D) simply describe events that happen.
  7. D. This poem describes what happens to men thrown into a dungeon. The author describes the mental effects of being imprisoned in a very negative way saying things like that the prisoner’s soul is “hopelessly deformed” and that his energy turns inward “till changed to poison”. This makes option (D) the best answer. The author is shedding negative light on how the world deals with the problem of crime. Answer option (A) is incorrect as the poem is not from the point of view of a jailor. Answer (B) is incorrect as a dungeon is not a solution to but rather a punishment for crime. Answer (C) is incorrect as the author does not question the worth of humanity in general, but rather the worth of the dungeon itself.
  8. B. The underlined section, when paraphrased in modern English, would be something like “do you ever think in the middle of all this craziness that we just have to keep going and going even though we’re not going to get anywhere?” This is equivalent to asking if life has any meaning, a deeply philosophical question. This makes answer (B) the best option. This questions the purpose of “seeking”, not of the author, so answer option (A) is incorrect. Answer option (C) is incorrect as we have no evidence that the author is particularly passionate about this topic. Answer option (D) is incorrect as the underlined passage may build on a previous statement, but it does not explain it.
  9. C. The question is asking for evidence that the man feels great peace. Answer option (A) describes a situation in which it would make sense to have little or no peace. Answer option (B) describes the man as having no pain, which is not the same as being at great peace. Answer option (D) says that the young envy him, but that does not necessarily mean they envy any great peace he might have. This leaves option (C) in which the man is described as having forgotten any and all effort, who has so mild a personality that he needs no patience, and who is led by nature. This gives the best evidence that the man is at peace.
  10. A. The first two lines of this short poem ask why the reader calls poets lonely. The second two lines responds to the question, explaining that poets are not lonely, but rather see hidden faces where we cannot. This makes answer option (A) the best solution.

Using Your PSAT Scores

The first Digital PSAT was administered to students throughout the United States in October of 2023. In past years, most students did not receive their results until December. This year, PSAT results will be available much earlier–some PSAT test scores will come out on November 6th, and some will come out on November 16th. How can you make the best use of your PSAT results?

See if you may qualify for National Merit Scholarship Recognition. Look at your National Merit Selection Index, which ranges between 48-228 and is calculated by doubling your Reading/Writing score and adding this to your Math score. Depending on the state or territory in which you live, the selection index is likely to be anywhere between 207 and 223. For example, New Mexico and North Dakota have lower selection indices, while New Jersey and Massachusetts have higher selection indices.

Use the BigFuture application to connect with colleges and scholarship opportunities. Go to https://satsuite.collegeboard.org/bigfuture-school-mobile-app to download the app. One of the biggest reasons for the PSAT is so that colleges can use the results to connect with students who may be a good fit for their student body. Be prepared to get plenty of emails from colleges who are interested in having you apply.

Do targeted review using Khan Academy. Be sure your College Board account is connected to Khan Academy. Here is an article on how to do this. Once your account is connected, Khan Academy can provide review materials for you based on the types of questions you missed on the PSAT.

Prepare for the Digital SAT that starts in March of 2024. The Digital PSAT gave you an excellent preview of the Digital SAT, since both tests have the same format, timing, and interface. Use your PSAT results to help you determine where you most need to focus your preparation leading up to the actual SAT. If you need help with your preparation, our highly trained Digital SAT tutors are ready to assist.

Preparing for the Digital PSAT

Schools across the United States will administer the new Digital PSAT/NMSQT for the first time this October. Unlike in previous years, schools have much more flexibility in scheduling the PSAT when it is convenient for their students. Accordingly, some schools will have the PSAT early in the month and some later in the month. What are some specific things students can do to prepare for the Digital PSAT?

  1. Download the Bluebook Application and take one full-length Digital PSAT. Doing this will help students become familiar with the computer interface of the new PSAT, with its built-in calculator, timer, highlighter, annotating features, and more. Students will also become comfortable with the adaptive format and pace for the Digital PSAT. In general students will feel more comfortable with the timing on this test, so they should try to slow down instead of speed up.
  2. Take additional Bluebook SAT tests as needed–there are four available in the Bluebook application that students may try. The timing and format of the Digital PSAT and Digital SAT are identical; the only major difference between the two tests is in the allocation of math concepts, with the Digital SAT having slightly more advanced material. So, by trying Digital SATs, students will be well-prepared for the Digital PSAT.
  3. Practice with the Barron’s Digital PSAT review book. I made four full-length practice PSATs that students can try, along with a wealth of review exercises.

For further free Digital PSAT resources, check our page here. Best of luck to everyone taking the upcoming Digital PSAT!

Educator Question Bank for the Digital SAT

The College Board has made a comprehensive Digital SAT Question bank available on their website:

https://satsuitequestionbank.collegeboard.org/digital/search

You can select certain question types, like Rhetorical Synthesis or Transitions, and create a PDF document that features those questions. It looks like many of the questions are repeats from the Bluebook SAT tests and the Khan Academy questions, so be prepared to have some overlap between the questions in this database and the questions in those other resources. Even so, this will be a valuable tool for students trying to prepare for the Digital SAT and Digital PSAT.

Digital SAT Tutoring Myths and Facts

The SAT will be making the most significant change in its history when it switches from a linear, paper-based test to an adaptive, computer-based test in March of 2024 for students in the United States.  Given this overhaul, many tutors and test prep companies may not present the reality of what high quality Digital SAT and Digital PSAT test preparation should entail.  Let’s break down the three biggest Digital SAT Myths and set the facts straight. 

Myth #1:  You can use the same materials to prepare for the Digital SAT as you did for the paper SAT. 

Fact:  The Digital SAT has many never-before-seen SAT question types that require a complete overhaul to current test prep. 

The Digital SAT has many new types of questions:

  • Rhetorical Synthesis writing questions that ask you to integrate information to accomplish a task
  • Targeted Quantitative and Textual Evidence questions that ask you to determine what would support or undermine an argument
  • Poetry, Humanities, and Drama Analytical Reading questions
  • Mathematics questions that allow the use of a built-in Desmos Calculator
  • Individual Digital SAT reading/writing questions accompanied by short texts of no more than 150 words (instead of the current multi-question passages of up to 750 words)

Given all these changes, using the same old books and materials as used with the current SAT will not work.  To make the changes even more significant, a major source of material for many test prep providers will no longer be available.  The Question-and-Answer Service currently allows students who take the SAT in March, May, or October to pay for access to their test booklets and answers.  Many test prep providers make copies of these booklets and use them as the material for their students.  The College Board is putting an end to this practice by no longer having the Question-and-Answer service.  Periodically, new practice tests will be made available online, but there will be far less material available directly from the test makers. Given this lack of material, many test prep providers may suggest that the paper-based Question and Answer services will work to prepare students for the Digital SAT.  While there are some overlaps in the math and grammar content of the old SAT and the Digital SAT, it would be a disservice to students to not have a new body of material ready to go for the redesigned test. 

Myth #2:  The same strategies and methods that worked on the paper SAT will work on the Digital SAT. 

Fact:  The adaptive nature and new interface of the Digital SAT demand major changes to testing strategies and instructional methods. 

The Digital SAT will have a section-adaptive format in which the second module of the Reading/Writing and the second module of the Math will be easier or more difficult depending on the student’s performance on the earlier module of each type.  This means that each question will have more of an impact on the score and that students may feel more stressed when they try to predict whether they are taking the easier or more difficult module.  Digital SAT tutors should be able to help students develop a personalized plan to manage their pacing and test anxiety given these new parameters.

The Digital SAT has an extremely useful Desmos calculator embedded into its interface, enabling students to use new approaches to attack inequalities, systems of equations, parabola problems, and absolute value questions.  A high-quality Digital SAT tutor can show students how to fully take advantage of this new calculator tool, along with other embedded tools like the annotation feature, answer-eliminator, and countdown timer. 

Currently, the strategies for the paper-based SAT reading passages are geared towards helping students focus for longer periods of time to absorb the general meaning of a 750-word text.  Also, students on the paper-based SAT can skip around on questions when they don’t fully understand the meaning of the text, trying more specific and easier questions before attempting broader and more difficult questions on a given passage.  With the Digital SAT reading questions, students will need to think deeply about shorter selections of text and thoroughly consider argumentative evidence on several questions.  There will also be a much greater emphasis on vocabulary knowledge with words-in-context questions, so students should be sure to bolster their knowledge of complex words.  Tutors must update their instruction to reflect the new reading comprehension strategies needed to succeed on the Digital SAT. 

Myth #3:  Everyone should just take the ACT since it is familiar. 

Fact:  Tutors should recommend the Digital SAT or the ACT based on what is best for the student, not for the tutor. 

The ACT has remained in roughly its current form for many years, and there is a wealth of preparation books and released tests available for students and tutors to use.  Since the Digital SAT represents a true revolution in test prep, the business models of many tutors may be at risk—they will no longer have the Question-and-Answer services available from College Board to create their curriculum.  Thus, many tutors may recommend that students steer clear of the Digital SAT.  While the ACT may be better for some students and the Digital SAT better for others, be wary of those who may recommend the ACT simply because it has been around for longer.  Many students will like the new format of the Digital SAT and should not be dissuaded from trying it simply because a switch to this test would be inconvenient for the tutor. 

If you need help preparing for the Digital SAT, we at BWS Education are ready to go with updated methods and materials to help you do your very best. We had the first publication about the Digital SAT to market in August of 2022, a comprehensive Digital PSAT book released in May of 2023, and an upcoming Digital SAT book coming out in August of 2023. All these books have questions and strategies fully aligned with the very latest information from College Board.  We have also compiled a wealth of free Digital SAT Resources for anyone to use.  When you prep with BWS, you will work with tutors who are at the very cutting edge of the transformation of the SAT.  We look forward to working with you.