The 2 Sections of the new SAT: What You Need to Know for 2024

The SAT has historically been a standard component of the college admissions process.

Every year, the College Board administers seven SATs. Most students take the SAT for the first time during their junior year, sometimes earlier.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to study for the SAT. In fact, in order to get that high score, you should.

What’s on the SAT? What content do you need to know to succeed on this college entrance exam?

Understanding the answers to these questions should be the first step of your test prep journey.

In this post, we’ll discuss the new digital format of the SAT, which will start being administered to all US students in 2024. We’ll cover timing, section structure, question types, and how the new adaptive test works. 

Jump to section:
The 2 SAT Sections: the basics
How is each section scored?
How do the adaptive SAT modules work
Digital SAT Section 1: What’s tested on SAT Reading and Writing?
How is the SAT Reading and Writing section organized?
Digital SAT Section 2: What’s tested on SAT Math?
Next steps


While the old SAT had four sections, the new SAT only has two: 

  • SAT Reading and Writing
  • SAT Math

If you’re used to the old sections, this might be a bit of a shock: all of your verbal questions are now combined into one section and score (Reading and Writing). Plus, there’s no longer a separation between Math Calculator and No-Calculator. Instead, all math questions allow you to use a calculator. For a detailed guide to what’s on the SAT Math, check out our post here!

But there’s an additional twist: each of the digital SAT sections is now divided into two “modules” of equal length. So, in total you’ll have to complete two Reading and Writing modules, and two Math modules. Don’t worry: we’ll break down exactly how these Digital SAT modules work later in this post. 

Here is the exact timing and number of questions on each of the SAT modules: 

SAT SectionTiming (minutes)Questions
Reading and Writing Module 13227
Reading and Writing Module 23227
Break10
Math Module 13522
Math Module 23522

The scoring on each section of the Digital SAT is similar to that of the old paper SAT. You can earn a maximum score of 800 for the Reading and Writing Section, and a maximum score of 800 for the Math section. 

The maximum possible SAT score on the new digital SAT remains 1600. 

But what counts as a “good” score on the SAT? The answer really depends on what your goals are, and you can read more about putting your SAT score in context here. 

Of course, getting a top score means being ready for the content that the SAT tests! Download our free, full digital SAT diagnostic here to get started. 


This is arguably the biggest change implemented by the new digital SAT format: it is now adaptive. What does that mean? In a nutshell, it means that the questions you see will depend on how well you’re doing on the test. 

When you take the first module of each SAT section, you’ll be given a mix of easy, medium, and difficult SAT questions. The better you do, the more difficult the second module of that section will be. That’s why each section is split into two adaptive modules: the second module’s difficulty depends on your performance on the first. 

What does this look like?

Let’s say you ace the first Reading and Writing module. Instead of seeing an even mix of easy, medium, and hard difficult questions on the second module, you’ll see questions that are more difficult. But let’s say that you then do very poorly on the first Math module. Then, your second Math module would consist primarily of lower-difficulty questions. 

Does your performance on the Reading and Writing section affect the difficulty of the Math questions you see? No: the two sections are treated completely separately! The second module within each section is determined exclusively by your performance on the first module within that section. 

Now, let’s break down what is tested on each section of the new SAT. 


The Reading and Writing section of the new digital SAT tests your knowledge of reading comprehension, English grammar, expression of ideas, and—this is a new one for the SAT—logical reasoning. 

Each of those broader categories breaks down into specific, predictable question types. The main thing to remember is that you can train yourself to recognize and predict every question on the SAT Reading and Writing section

When it comes to the “Reading” part of SAT Reading and Writing, questions break down into two overall categories: standard reading comprehension and logical reasoning. Each of these categories contains several specific question types. You can check out our comprehensive guide to the kinds of Reading questions you’ll see on SAT Reading and Writing here.

So what gets tested by the Reading portion of the SAT? You’ll be expected to do the following: 

  1. Fill in words in context
  2. Summarize poems and short passages
  3. Identify the meaning of specific lines within short passages
  4. Interpret charts and graphs
  5. Support, undermine, and complete logical arguments

For the “Writing” section, you can expect to be tested on English grammar and expression of ideas. You’ll see the same specific question types on every Digital SAT, and we have a comprehensive breakdown of every Writing question type that tests grammar here for when you’re ready to start maximizing your score.

As a broader overview, we can tell you that the SAT Writing tests the following specific concepts: 

  1. Subject Verb Agreement 
  2. Punctuation 
  3. Pronoun Antecedent Agreement
  4. Verb tense
  5. Dangling modifiers
  6. Logical comparisons
  7. Transitions
  8. Redundancy 
  9. Sentence construction
  10. Synthesizing information from bullet-pointed notes

Does it feel like a lot? It might! But the great news is we’ve got a post that covers all of the grammar rules you need to know for the new digital SAT, with examples and walkthroughs for real SAT questions!

For real examples of these questions, download our free SAT diagnostic quiz below!

 


Although the Digital SAT does not separate Reading and Writing into two different sections, there is still a clear difference between the two

In fact, the questions in the Reading and Writing section of the SAT follow a very specific order! The first half (roughly) of the section will cover Reading Comprehension. This means you’ll be presented with short passages and asked to answer one question on each. 

Something really important to keep in mind is that, unlike old versions of the SAT, you will no longer have to read a long passage and answer multiple questions on it. You will only have to answer one single question per passage, and each passage will be incredibly short: no longer than a paragraph or so! Take a look at a few examples below:

After you answer the passage-based Reading Comprehension questions, you’ll come to the first of the Writing questions. These are also carefully organized. In general, you’ll answer several questions back to back on the same grammar concept, then move on to a different grammar concept. 

So, for example, you might have to answer 4 questions on transition words in a row, then 3 questions on punctuation, then 3 questions on subject-verb agreement, and so on. This can be a huge advantage for you. If you use our guide on how to recognize and answer every type of SAT grammar question, you’ll be able to easily tackle each mini-set of questions, then confidently move on to the next!

Below, we’ve got a couple examples of real SAT Writing questions: 


Like the SAT Reading and Writing section, the SAT Math section is split into two similar modules, with the second one adapting to your performance on the first. 

The Digital SAT Math section tests all the same concepts that the old version (2023 and earlier) of the SAT used to test. That’s great news, because it means you can use all of the old practice tests to prepare! 

On the SAT Math, you can use the integrated Desmos calculator for any problem. In fact, if you master that calculator tool, you can use it to game lots of the SAT Math questions, even if you don’t know how to do the questions themselves! Master the SAT’s Desmos calculator tool and you’ll have a huge advantage over the test. 

Below, we’ve included a chart offering a breakdown of all SAT Math concepts, how often they’re tested, and what percentage of your total Math score they account for.

CategorySkills testedQuestions per testPercentage 
AlgebraLinear equationsSystems of linear equationsLinear word problemsLinear inequalities13-15~35%
Advanced MathQuadratic expressionsNonlinear functionsEquivalent expressions13-15~35%
Problem-Solving and DataRatios and proportions PercentagesData distribution and measures of center and spreadProbability Evaluating statistical claims and experimental design5-7~15%
GeometryArea and volumeLines, angles, trianglesRight triangles, trigonometryCircles5-7~15

While there seem to be a lot of skills tested, they are always tested in nearly the same exact ways! That means the SAT Math section is highly predictable. It’s so predictable, in fact, that we’ve actually got a post here on exactly what kind of math you can expect to see on the digital SAT–check it out and make sure you go into test day totally ready. 

To see what these SAT Math questions actually look like, be sure to download our full digital SAT diagnostic worksheet below!

 


The SAT is a critical component of the college admissions process. While the content of the 2 SAT Sections discussed in this post may seem familiar to students, it is often tested in unfamiliar ways. 

For this reason, preparing for the SAT is vital! It takes time to learn the language of the SAT, and it takes even more time to get closer to that high score.

What can you do to begin your test prep? We strongly recommend signing up for one of our state-of-the-art SAT programs. Working with professionals as you study for the SAT is the surest way to guarantee excellent results.

When you’re ready to start prepping, learn more about our programs here, and download our free digital SAT diagnostic below. 

 


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Mike

Mike

Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.