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24 Tips to Master the Math Section of the SAT

Don't know where to start studying for the Math section of the SAT? We can help.

Many students struggle with Math, and it’s no different for the SAT. Depending on when you take the test, you may not have gone over all the concepts covered in school, or it may have been a while since you have last seen them. The New SAT has also been redesigned, adding extra confusion into the mix. Whatever the case, you need to make sure that you at least understand the fundamentals of what is covered and how you can make the best use of your time. Here are some tips to help:

Math (No Calculator)

  1. You have 25 minutes for 20 questions in this section, about 1 minute 15 seconds per question.
  2. Most formulas you will need are provided at the beginning of each Math section.
  3. The New SAT’s Math section has a much greater emphasis on Algebra and world problems.
  4. Make sure you understand how equations and functions work very well.
  5. Review how to solve for another variable in each equation.
  6. If you don’t know how to approach the problem, try substituting the answers into the problem (start with the middle answer choices).
  7. If you don’t understand the math (especially in problems where the answer choices still have variables), try plugging in numbers that make sense for the problem. Choose numbers that you can calculate easily (Usually 1,2,3 and 10 work well).
  8. Pay close attention to units of measurement. If any unit of measurement is mentioned, make sure everything else in the problem is in that unit of measurement; you may need to convert.
  9. Grid-in section: make sure to bubble in all spaces if your answer has a decimal. The most accurate answer is the correct one.
  10. Grid-in section: If the question as more than one correct answer, only input one of them.
  11. Grid-in section: The grid does not have a minus sign, so an answer cannot be negative.
  12. Grid-in section: Convert any mixed numbers into an improper fraction or decimal before entering it on the grid.

Math (Calculator)

  1. You have 55 minutes for 38 questions in this section, about 1 minute 26 seconds per question.
  2. You will see more word problems in this section. When solving word problems, read one sentence at a time and write any numbers or relationship clues off to the side after each sentence. This will help you keep everything organized and see a clearer picture of the relationships between each element of the problem.
  3. If you don’t know how to approach the problem, try substituting the answers into the problem (start with the middle answer choices).
  4. If you don’t understand the math (especially in problems where the answer choices still have variables), try plugging in numbers that make sense for the problem. Choose numbers that you can calculate easily (Usually 1,2,3 and 10 work well).
  5. Know when not to use your calculator. Don’t use your calculator for simple operations like one or two-digit addition. Doing so only takes more time to put it into the calculator, and it will make each of the more difficult problems take longer.
  6. Understand how to read/interpret the following: tables/charts, bar graphs, line graphs, scatter plots, pie charts
  7. Grid-in section: make sure to bubble in all spaces if your answer has a decimal. The most accurate answer is the correct one.
  8. Grid-in section: If the question as more than one correct answer, only input one of them.
  9. Grid-in section: The grid does not have a minus sign, so an answer cannot be negative.
  10. Grid-in section: Convert any mixed numbers into an improper fraction or decimal before entering it on the grid.
  11. Get familiar with what words match which mathematical operation for word problems.
Add Subtract Multiply Divide Equals
Add Difference Each Share Equally Is
Altogether Fewer Same Each Was
And Gave Away Twice Quotient Were
Both Take Away Product Every Have
In All How many more? In All Cut Has
Sum How much longer/shorter/smaller/left? Double/Triple/Quadruple Equal pieces Equals
Total Less Of Average Equal to
Increase Decrease Per Out of Equivalent
Plus Remain Times Ratio The same as
More Bigger As much Fraction
Combined Remainder By Split
Joined Remain Area Half
Extra Lost Volume
Fell
More Than
Further

Looking for more help? Check out our SAT worksheets.