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What International Students Need to Know About the Digital SAT

Families living outside of the US interested in taking the SAT may have heard that the test is changing. Indeed, for international students, the last paper SAT will be administered in December 2022. Then, starting in March 2023, the SAT will be available in the new digital format only. The ACT will, for now, continue to be offered as a computer-based version of the current paper test, as it has since September 2019.

What are Applerouth’s recommendations for international students as they navigate these changes?

No two students are alike, and many factors weigh into choosing the optimal testing plan for an individual student. Therefore, we always recommend that parents speak 1-1 with one of our Program Advisors for a personalized recommendation.

Still, there are some general considerations for all students. The first step is to determine which test – SAT or ACT – is best for you. And the best way to do that is to take a practice test of each and compare your scores.¹

  • ACT Practice Test: Applerouth offers an online, on demand practice test. Click here to take a practice ACT. 
  • SAT Practice Test: Although the delivery format and structure of the SAT will change, the College Board has stated that the scoring scales will not. Therefore, practice scores on our current SAT practice test are still valid for planning purposes. Click here to take Applerouth’s online, on-demand practice SAT.

Once you know which test is best for you, you can build a plan around that test. A solid testing plan should allow time for up to three official test dates before applications are due.

If the ACT is best for you: Given that the ACT is not changing (for now) for international students, your student can review upcoming ACT test dates and build a plan to prepare for up to three dates that meet their unique schedule and needs. 

If the SAT is best for you: If you’re in the “SAT camp,” rest assured that you will do great with a little planning. If you have already taken Algebra II and/or have already been preparing for the SAT, consider taking the final paper test in December. If December is your first official test, you will likely need 1-2 more official tests to hit your goal score, but the December scores can inform your next steps. 

Your subsequent tests will be in the digital format, so you’ll need to adjust your approach to the new format, which we will help you do. When you select your digital test dates, you might consider delaying until the second (May) or third (June) administration of the digital test to allow time for the technological kinks to work themselves out. Now that the College Board has added more dates for international test takers, starting with a test date in June 2023 and November 2023, this is a viable option. These two new test dates will be available to international students going forward in the future, making testing more accessible to international students.

Does this advice hold true for ELL students

Based on the practice material the College Board has released thus far, it appears that the Digital SAT will have a heavier emphasis on vocabulary-based questions. For ELLs, the number of vocabulary questions (10 out of 54 in a recent practice test) may put them at a disadvantage. We will continue to monitor this as the official practice test roll out takes place in mid October but, for now, we would advise that ELL students take this into account.

What are Applerouth’s general thoughts on the digital test?

In general, we think that digital native students will relish the opportunity to test online and will be comfortable trying the digital test. 

Once fully launched, the Digital SAT has certain features that many students may find advantageous, including:

  • A shorter test
  • More time per question
  • Shorter reading passages 
  • Faster score delivery

While the delivery of the test will be different, the core content is not changing so Applerouth’s approach to test preparation will continue to help students do their best.

International students experienced a lot of technical difficulties when the ACT first went computer-based in 2019. Should they be concerned about similar difficulties with the digital SAT?

The College Board is taking very proactive measures to avoid glitches in the early roll out. The SAT will only require a minute of connectivity at the start and end of the test, not uninterrupted wifi throughout the test. The College Board has pledged to provide devices for any students who request one, and details on this application process will be included during the test registration process.

Still, it is impossible to predict exactly how the rollout will go. Students who want to play it safe should consider the ACT or the hybrid approach described above (December paper SAT plus two later digital SATs after the kinks are worked out).

Whenever you decide to test, Applerouth will be ready to help you prepare for test day with confidence. Schedule a call with an Applerouth Advisor to get your custom testing plan.


¹ Given the upcoming changes to the SAT, we suggest that students carefully consider the score comparison and only follow the “SAT path” if their practice SAT score is significantly higher (e.g., 50 points or more) on an SAT vs. ACT score concordance scale. To compare scores, use our score concordance table here. If the scores are very close, the most conservatve approach is to take the ACT while the College Board rolls out the changes to the SAT. Again, these score comparisons are a general rule of thumb and the best advice is always personalized advice. Schedule a call with an Applerough Advisor for a customized recommendation.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 866-789-PREP (7737) or info@applerouth.com.