Is the Digital SAT Better than the ACT?

Even in an often "test optional" college application environment, every high schooler should ideally take both a free diagnostic digital SAT using the official Bluebook testing application and a free diagnostic ACT to most definitely determine which test they prefer. Outside of "test driving" the two exam experiences, it really is a matter of personal preference and instinctive answers to simple questions such as:

  • Do you prefer a faster exam? The digital SAT is about 45 minutes shorter than the ACT.
  • Is paper and pencil a better testing experience for you? The ACT is the only non-digital option.
  • Are you a math whiz? Half of the overall digital SAT score is comprised of two math sections.
  • Do you excel in English and reading? Three quarters of the ACT relies on these skills, since the science section is really just reading comprehension with charts and graphs.

There is no absolute answer to which test is better. It's an equivocal, "it depends". That said, College Board, the SAT administrators, consciously updated the content of the SAT as part of moving its test to a computer-administered format. The ACT on the other hand is offering a digital ACT version in some locations starting in February 2024, but none of the content is changing, so students taking this test online and using paper and pencil will have the same sections as before. College Board has said that changing to shorter sections and an adaptive by section scoring methodology will make the digital SAT less stressful for students and more relevant in considering applicants for college admissions officers, but of course that doesn't mean that it is the test that will get you the highest score. That highest score remains the only concern, because in the Common App era of college admissions there is no preference for either exam.

Of course, the best way to determine which is the best test for you or your student is to contact MyGuru to schedule a free videoconference to discuss your specific needs with one of our test prep experts!

The MyGuru Edge for SAT Prep

No two SAT students are the same, so no two MyGuru one-on-one tutoring sessions are either. Our SAT tutors are equally familiar with each section of the exam (and with digital testing!) so they can build a uniquely targeted study plan with a personalized learning approach to help each student achieve their score goals. Additionally, our instructors are familiar with not only the official SAT practice materials from College Board, but also a lengthy list of third-party resources that they can recommend based on each individual student's learning style and content needs.

Our one-on-one digital SAT tutoring uses dynamic online whiteboarding tools in a virtual meeting environment that requires no equipment other than an internet connected computer with a microphone and camera. This allows MyGuru SAT tutoring to feature simultaneous content review (including real Bluebook SAT practice questions using screensharing capability) and live problem demos. Using this parallel track of instruction, our instructors explain how particular SAT strategies and tactics can be used for future problems with similar content.

The instructor's live-produced whiteboard notes are then shared as either a static .pdf (see example) after every session or kept on a private whiteboard for future reference and interaction in between lessons. Over time, these notes become a supplementary "textbook" of tactics and content to review that is unique to each student's lesson plan and learning style that isn't available anywhere else.

Digital SAT Whiteboard (1)

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Customized SAT Study Plans

Selecting a digital SAT tutor is a major commitment, so we always offer a free 15-minute introductory videoconference with any potential instructor to help each student decide which path forward is best for their individual digital SAT (or ACT) and college application needs. While we can also conduct a phone call, we recommend a videoconference as it allows a greater opportunity to share exactly what separates MyGuru from all other digital SAT prep companies. In that videoconference potential students will be able to:

  • Screenshare live with an experienced MyGuru digital SAT coach to learn how our dynamic whiteboarding tool works and to better understand the differences between our standard and premium online tutoring offers
  • Discuss a tailored digital SAT study schedule and possible supplementary resources that can help you continue your learning by completing intentionally curated homework assignments between live lessons
  • Share your experience with the SAT, or any other standardized tests you may have taken in the past, to give fuller context regarding what you need from a potential tutor and consider whether the digital SAT is the best test for you
  • Conduct a comfortable introductory conversation with your possible tutor to determine whether the personality fit is good and whether that instructor seems well-positioned to guide the next steps of your test prep and college admissions journey

SAT Tutoring Pricing & Package Options

At MyGuru, we believe on return on investment and do not require any commitment to start working together beyond purchase of a single hour of instruction. We offer several tiers of instruction and hours to maximize value. At each level, MyGuru students have gained admission (and merit-based aid!) from some of the top universities in the United States.

  • Standard Online | $100 per hour | $450 for 5 hours | $1,050 for 12 hours | $2,050 for 24 hours
    Our most affordable option, and significantly lower cost than our most well-known individual tutoring competitors, MyGuru Standard Online digital SAT tutoring is uniquely tailored to each student's needs by an instructor with thousands of hours of tutoring experience and provides a .pdf of each lesson's whiteboard notes by email within 24 hours of each session.
  • Premium Online | $150 per hour | $700 for 5 hours | $1,550 for 12 hours | $3,000 for 24 hours
    Our best value, MyGuru Premium Online digital SAT tutoring provides full recording of every session to watch back for up to three months after the final lesson and a private read/write whiteboard where students can demonstrate tactics live in lesson and post questions or comments in between lessons to maintain contact with their instructor. Instructors will check the board at least once a day to respond as warranted.
  • Expert Edge Online | $200 per hour | $900 for 5 hours | $2,100 for 12 hours | $4,000 for 24 hours
    Seeking large score improvements or top decile results? Consider premium online tutoring with MyGuru's Director of Instruction, Stefan Maisnier, who has 20 years of tutoring experience helping students get admitted to top schools such as University of Chicago, Dartmouth, Harvard, Northwestern, Penn, Stanford, UCLA, and USC among others.

Our packages are designed with flexibility in mind to facilitate regular lessons of 60, 90 (most common), or 120 minutes depending on student availability and preference. Once a package of time is purchased, the cost for any additional time will remain at the prorated hourly package rate. We also refund unused hours minus a 5% processing fee and consider time unused provided at least 24-hour notice is given prior to a lesson for any reschedule or cancellation request.

Although it isn't recommended for the now computer-administrated digital SAT exam and lacks the dynamic features of our online tutoring, in-person instruction is available in many major US cities upon request, at the same prices as our Premium Online instruction, pending tutor availability.

Your Digital SAT Tutoring Guru

The MyGuru undergraduate test prep tutoring team is led by our Director of Instruction, Stefan Maisnier. Unlike most test prep experts, Stefan has an academic background more aligned with the reading and writing section of the digital SAT, possessing a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Southern California and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Because he hasn't taken a traditional math course in nearly two decades, Stefan steadfastly believes that the math skills needed to succeed on this test can be learned (or relearned!) by just about any high school junior or senior, since they have already probably taken a more advanced math course than the digital SAT requires. In fact, he is fond of pointing out quick and efficient logical solutions to problem solving questions that he calls "engineer breakers" because the technical solution is so complex that attempting it is a trap.

While he has been a full-time test prep professional for almost ten years, and a part-time one for nearly 20 years, he also spent the decade after obtaining his bachelor's degree working in sports television production at ESPN and Fox Sports, so he is more adept than the average tutor at keeping the attention of students who might otherwise find SAT study less than engaging. He can also speak positively of his college experience working as a student video manager for Pete Carroll's national championship winning coaching staff at USC and knowingly about dozens of campuses across the United States from his time traveling to more than 45 state working his primary sports assignments of college football and college basketball at ESPN.

For Stefan, interviewing Mike Tyson and producing graphics for the World Cup on live television cannot compare with the thrill of reading a note from a past student letting him know that they reached a 1450+ score on their SAT. He looks forward to getting many more of those messages in 2024 and beyond!

Director of Instruction - Stefan Maisnier

Digital SAT vs Pencil-and-Paper SAT

Prep Carefully

Unfortunately, many available third-party SAT study materials are still tailored to the old paper-and-pencil version of the exam with a separate Writing and Language section and a No-Calculator Math section.

To prepare for the new digital test, confirm that you're taking practice exams matching the new format even if they are in a static text format. Check by making sure that each Reading and Writing section is 32 minutes long, with no passages pertaining to more than a single question, while each Math section allows use of a calculator and is 35 minutes in duration.

Prior SAT Format

The most recent pencil-and-paper SAT was a nearly three-hour exam. The "verbal" sections were separated as the test started with a 52-question, 65-minute Reading section followed by a 44-question, 35-minute Writing and Language section that together comprised the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score out of 800.

The math sections were also split into a section that allowed a calculator and one that didn't. The 20-question, 25-minute No-Calculator Math section followed the Writing and Language, and the test concluded with a 38-question, 55-minute Calculator Math section.  

Digital SAT Format

The SAT is now an adaptive by section computer-administered exam, wherein student performance on the first section of a type dictates the difficulty of the second section of that same type. This makes performance on the first section very important, since getting into the higher difficulty second section is imperative for students seeking to obtain a top score.

The two Reading and Writing sections allow 32 minutes to complete 27 individual prompt questions. Each of the two Math sections allow a calculator and provide 35 minutes for 22 questions in either multiple-choice or numeric entry format.

Proven SAT Study Strategies

Preparing for a standardized test such as the digital SAT is more similar to preparing for a marathon than cramming for a final exam, so the first step is to commit to 1-2 hours of daily dedicated practice for 2-4 months. The best resources for that practice can be found directly from the College Board test makers at where you can also take a free diagnostic exam to determine your baseline score and learn how far you have to go to achieve your goal as well as what topics should be prioritized for study.

Your tutor will always provide clear homework assignments after every lesson, and each practice drill should be fully self-reviewed to ensure that you are getting the most out of every exercise. Make sure to take a break between doing and self-reviewing your practice to avoid simply accepting an answer explanation rather than challenging yourself to determine why your answer was incorrect, while the correct answer was right instead.

Real SAT Parent and Student Feedback

  • Lia O. (2023 international digital SAT student) Hello, good afternoon! I got my results yesterday and I got a 750 in math, 1450 general, which was basically more than I was aiming for and even more than I expected. I'm so happy and thank you so much for your help!
  • Matthew J. I apologize for the delay, I know the last time we spoke you told me not to completely ghost you and I apologize but I did not realize that SAT scores did not come out until today. Besides that, I wanted to thank you for your help as I hit my goal of 1580!! Thank you so much and I hope I haven’t kept you waiting. 
  • Barbara J. I cannot praise MyGuru enough. I used one of the MyGuru tutors to help my daughter prepare for the ACT and SAT tests. Mark was able to set her up with online Skype tutoring. She liked her tutor immediately. He listened to her needs and concerns and focused on her weak areas the most. He was knowledgeable, extremely competent and friendly. He spent a good amount of time on test taking strategy which was very helpful, especially for managing time during the test. After 2-3 months of working through practice tests together she went into both the ACT and SAT with confidence. She exceeded all expectations on both tests. I credit MyGuru for her test success. I will definitely use MyGuru again. Money well spent. Contact Mark before spending money at a 'big name' tutoring center. You will not be disappointed.
  • Marcia K. I researched many test prep services for my daughter's ACT/SAT preparations before deciding on MyGuru. All the others wanted to sell me waaay more (thousands of dollars) hours of instruction than my daughter felt she needed. We tried MyGuru and the online tutoring option was perfect in that it fit well into my daughter's crazy schedule. Stefan's predictions on the scores he thought were achievable for my daughter became a reality quite soon in the process and she ended up getting into the college of her dreams. I loved MyGuru because there's no "hard sell". They focus on the areas you need to improve and are very realistic about expectations.
  • Emily J. I used MyGuru to help me prepare for both the ACT and SAT. My schedule is very busy and MyGuru was the best tutoring place to accommodate my schedule, allowing me to work with a tutor over skype weekly and do work they provided me on my own. My ACT score went up 2 points after tutoring and when I took the SAT for the first time I got a 1510. I truly feel like I owe lots of my college acceptances and any money I will get towards college to MyGuru and recommend it to all.
  • Peter K. My son used MyGuru for online sat prep. His tutor Steve was amazing and helped him focus and to work hard. He improved his score by 300 points. Working with MyGuru was easy and simple. Everyone was helpful and friendly. I can highly recommend the service.

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