Are you getting ready for the SAT test and worried about the math sections? Don’t be because there isn’t anything that studying and putting in the time cannot fix. On average those who put in the study time do better than the average SAT score or score up to 300 more points the second time around.

The math sections of the SAT cover a wide range of topics including geometry, algebra, trigonometry, statistics, and data analysis. But everything covered in the SAT is set to test prospective college students on their logic and college-level course readiness. So, regardless of the math courses you’ve taken or currently taking in school, you should be able to conquer the SAT math questions if you have the right SAT test prep schedule.

Yet, if you feel like you need extra help on the math section of the SAT then keep on reading and get ready to study.

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The SAT Math Format

The math portion of the SAT is comprised of two sections one using a calculator and another without. The total time of both sections is of 80 minutes and they are the last two sections of the exam unless you opted to also take the optional essay portion of the exam.

The first math section is limited to students not allowed to use a calculator and consists of 20 questions and is timed at 25 minutes. Fifteen of the questions in this section are multiple-choice and five questions are grid-in questions. A grid-in question means that test-takers will have to produce their own answers and these questions account for 22% of the total 58 math questions in both math sections.

SAT datasets
The ability to interpret graphs and datasets is also a focal point in the new 2106 SAT revision. (Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash)

On the second math section, a calculator may be used, and the section consists of 38 questions timed at 55 minutes. The questions are made up of 30 multiple choices and 8 grid-in questions including a few “extended thinking” questions. Extended thinking questions are normally a set of several questions organized around one single scenario, passage, or data set. Graphs and data visuals should also be expected in the exam, as they are testing students on their ability to read and interpret data sets.

The College Board sorts the math questions from the two sections into three main categories including Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis. These three categories make up 90% of the math questions with an additional 10% of the questions simply being referred to in an Additional Topics category.

Questions in the Heart of Algebra category as you might already know, have to do with basic algebraic math. These questions will test your knowledge of linear equations, inequalities, graphing linear equations, interpreting functions, and linear function word problems.

Passport of Advanced Math questions might seem a little daunting because of the word “advanced”, but do not let these questions scare you off to the abyss. While the Heart of Algebra questions had to do with linear equations, Passport of Advanced Math questions deal with the knowledge to solve nonlinear expressions. Official question topics include solving quadratic equations, interpreting nonlinear expressions, quadratic and exponential word problems, radical and rational exponents, polynomial factors, and isolating quantities.

The third math category is Problem Solving and Data Analysis. These questions will ask you to work with percentages, ratios, rates, proportions, units, data tables, scatterplots, data inferences and conclusions, and shape center, spread, and distributions. These questions will test your ability to solve multi-step problems to calculate their ratio, rate, density, etc., and your ability to interpret various types of data sets and visuals.

Since these three categories account for 90% of the math questions asked, the additional 10% of the questions called Additional Topics test for geometry, trigonometry, and other problems with complex expressions. Most of these questions are testing your knowledge on determining the volume of shapes, your ability to apply properties to the area and angle measures, and to solve problems using sine, cosine, and tangent formulas.

Now that you know the SAT math format, you are closer to determine what sections to focus more of your study time in relation to your math strengths and weaknesses.

How to Prepare for the Math Sections

If you are achieving a perfect score of 800 on the math section or an average score of 527 the only way to get there is by putting in the work. Since the SAT cannot test students on AP Calculus problems since not all high school students reach that math level, it has to test students by formatting questions in a complex way instead of in layman’s terms.

From some perspective college students scoring high on the math, section is fairly important because of the type of university they might be applying to or the major they are applying for. First, it helps to determine what ballpark score you want to achieve in this section. There is a total of 58 questions in the math portion of the exam, which means that any missed question is scaled out of 800 points. The SAT math grading scale is fairly strict, which is why missing just one single question can drop your score to a 790. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a perfect score or aim for a score higher than 750.

Now that you have determined your math section score range, it is time to work on strategies that will get you to your ideal score. Time management, constant practice, formula memorization, and keeping calm are a few SAT strategies that will mentally get you prepared for test day.

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Pro Tip: Bring a none digital watch to test day to keep track of your time throughout the exam. (Photo by Jaelynn Castillo on Unsplash)
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Time Management

Even if you are comfortable with the math material and topics being covered in the exam, most students struggle with the strenuous time restraints of the exam. That is where building your time management skills will come in handy.

For every section even when studying for the verbal portion always use a timer and have it count down the allotted time you have for each section. Treat every practice question as a real question on test day. These time management exercises will only make you more comfortable working in a time-constricted environment.

Every time you take an SAT practice test mark every question answered after the time was out with an extra time star. Once you moved on to the next section and are ready to get your practice score always give yourself two scores: an actual-time score and an extra time score. These two scores will help you evaluate your realistic score and the score you can work on achieving with just a few more timed practice questions and drills.

The starred questions and incorrect questions will also help you determine what math categories you need extra time with and which ones you need to brush upon. You might also realize that you might’ve scored high with your extra timed answers, which means that you lack time management. This only means that there might be a few math subjects that are slowing you down and need extra study time on those specific topics.

You always want to time yourself and aim to always finish every section with extra time on the clock. If you aim to always finish with extra time, that means extra time to go back and check answers you might’ve not been sure about.

Practice Makes Perfect

A ton of practice when studying for the SAT both for verbal and math sections is the best way to get your score higher. Understanding your incorrect answers and the reasons for why you got them wrong is the basis of practice to make perfect.

You need to make sure that you understand your weaknesses and strive to perfect them. The only way to find those weak points is by constantly taking practice tests. SAT practice tests can be easily found for free online or by purchasing SAT prep texts books which contain a myriad of practice exams with official past test questions. These practice exams will allow you to know where your constant faults are and how to correct them before test day.

Formula Memorization

A great way to score extra time in the math sections is by memorizing all the basic math formulas and concepts. Not only will it waste time flipping through the exam booklet to find the needed formula it also means you aren’t fully prepared for the SAT math section.

Most of the formulas that are to memorize are easy, and mostly to do with geometry and trigonometry problems. Formulas needed have to do with calculating the slope from two points, common right angles and sides, and formulas for volume, area, and surface. There are complete lists of math formulas to memorize online and on your SAT prep textbooks.

SAT Test Day
Mental clarity along with test-taking strategies are also fairly helpful for a successful SAT score. (Photo by Anastasiia Kamil on Unsplash)

Keep Mentally Calm

Now that you know the SAT math format and the top strategies to prepare for the exam, the final step is to keep mentally calm during the test. The only thing worse during an exam is to have your nerves get the best of you.

This means that you might have to skip a few questions at the beginning, but that only means that your mind needs time to adjust. Starting with easier problems at first will help your mind ease in. So, do not freak out if your mind can’t catch up when you first start the math section, just skip and come back to those questions. If you prepared yourself, you just need to keep a positive mindset throughout the time allotted.

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Denise

A California desert-native who has a passion for baking from scratch, reading 1950-era novels, listening to soul/jazz, and learning about different cultures through travel.