Every prospective college student wants that perfect 1600 SAT score, yet not everyone will get it. You’re here because you want to get as close as possible to that ideal number, so let’s talk strategy.

Goals are an important starting point on your preparation journey for the SAT exam. Thing is, do you really need a perfect score? An ace in the hole? In all probability, no. You are taking the SAT to be admitted into the college or university of your choice. That’s the only reason you are taking this test and you should keep that in mind. An interesting concept to keep top of mind is that The College Board is not just testing your foundational knowledge. They are also testing your ability to strategize and adapt to an unknown.

Generally, the exam will be laid out as a series of question prompts that are followed by 4-5 potential answers and it’s your job to filter through them and decide which one is correct. Yet while that idea is essentially correct, you need to pivot your thinking.

After reading the prompt, carefully read through the question each potential answer. These questions are sometimes designed to confuse you, so, sort through the specific keys to the answer. Does the question use a positive or negative tone? Is it hypothetical or does the question have a lot of filler information? Do they use it with or without?

Once you have pulled out these important markers, it can be helpful to rewrite the question in your own words. This will help you better understand the questions, but also boil it down to the essentials. Getting rid of any filler information can make the questions much clearer and more understandable. If you can’t write it out, try drawing it. Depending on how you best learn, drawing it out or rereading it can put a new perspective on the same, enigmatic question.

These strategies are best used on the ‘find the evidence’ type questions. They can be long-winded and serpentine which makes them hard to follow. Instead rewriting and pulling out the bits that are most important will simplify these otherwise complex questions.  This is the reason they give you a test booklet – make sure to use it. Scribble and jot down thoughts as you are reading. This will both save time and aid in the retention of the passage or problem you are working on.

partners on a test working as the same time
Partnering with a teacher or tutor will help you study and learn.  Photo cred: Jessica Lewis on Upsplash

SAT Math Strategies

To better form an SAT math prep plan, we first have to review the section’s format. The SAT math section is broken down into two sections with a total of 80 minutes to complete 58 questions. In the first section, you have 25 minutes to answer 15 multiple choice and 5 grid-in questions without a calculator. In the second section, you have 55 minutes to solve 30 multiple choice questions with 8 grid-ins including a single extended thinking question.

With the exam’s time constraints in mind, a great strategy is to spend 1 minute on each question and then go on to the next one. This will help you maintain a positive flow as well as keep you from spending too much time on any single question. Additionally, once you have gone through each section using the timing strategy you will most likely have some time left to revise your answers.

The SAT math topics will include questions regarding algebra, solving for variables, trigonometric ratios, and a fair bit of conversion and angles. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of what you will face on that fateful day.

A great rule of thumb is to always make sure to solve for the correct variable. Considering how the questions are phrased, it can be easy to overlook or just miss the main subject and solve for the wrong variable.

rulers with pen and paper for graphing
Make sure you have the correct tools for the job.  Photo cred: Benjamin Smith on Upsplash

Always Use the Diagram

For grid-in and conversion type questions, a diagram will most often be provided. Diagrams are always drawn to scale, so use that knowledge to your advantage. There are some great online resources that have really great write up great strategies on how you can attach best answer questions that include graphing as well as those which require volume and density conversions. The importance of understanding the underlying principles will keep you from getting stumped on some of these more complex questions.

In the 80 minutes, you will have to finish the SAT math section, remember that you don’t have to answer the questions in order. In fact, it can help you flow and gain the confidence to go through the section and answer the ones you are certain of. After that, you should go back and work on the ones you weren’t sure of or outright didn’t know. You will not lose any points for wrong answers as only the correct answers are counted, which means that you should always answer every question. Never leave an answer blank, even if you don’t know which one is correct.

A multiple-choice question, as mentioned earlier, is set up with a prompt and 4-5 potential answers. Switch your thinking around and realize that you are searching for the answers that are clearly wrong. By attacking the questions this way, you increase your odds of finding the right one. With this little shift, you reduce the number of choices. For example, you have 4 options, and you realize that two are clearly incorrect. All of a sudden, your odds of selecting the right answer are at 50% — you just doubled your odds!

Don’t second guess yourself, most of the time your first selection is the right one. In SAT math revision, it is very easy to let anxiety creep in and the doubt which will then build doubt until you’re certain it’s the other choice. Remember if you have crossed reduce the answer options that are incorrect, the choice should be much easier.

Once you have filled all the answers in them all in, assuming there is still some time left, go back over them again and make sure you didn’t accidentally skip anything. Transfer the answers you selected from your note pad to the exam page.  This will allow for another revision of your choices and the questions that proceeded them.

The last and most important tip is practice. SAT math practice is essential to reducing the challenges you’ll encounter when it comes time to take the test. Practice is hands down the easiest way to improve your score and just improve your overall comfort with the material. The test is daunting, especially when it feels like there is a lot riding on the results.

It’s not the end of the world and you can always take the test again if your score is not to your liking.  You have plenty of time to prepare and revise your selections. A tutor can help you develop a game plan that best fits your study style and that will help strengthen your weaknesses. and this is how you execute. Step by step, piece by piece, question by question

teacher addressing the classroom in black and white
Selecting the right teacher will make a big difference in how you score.  Photo cred: Immo Wegmann on Upsplash

Perks of a Math Tutor

If you need additional aid beyond these study strategies, then maybe you should consider a math tutor. Selecting Working with an SAT math tutor will help you get acclimated to this schedule study schedule. They will guide you through a series of practice tests, math drills, and time management exercises that will get you ready for test day.

It is recommended that you use the official ones from The most recommended practice tests to aid you through your study program come straight from the creators of the SAT, The College Board. These official practice tests include questions from past SAT exams and will be the most similar to the real test. Unfortunately, there are only a select few that are available for free with additional practice tests available for purchase on The College Board website. Yet, an added perk of hiring an SAT math teacher is that most will have these resources available for you, which can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

If the thought of getting a tutor seems financially daunting, then Superprof is the right resource for you. Superprof offers tutors at all price ranges and in a non-commitment based environment always. You can test run a tutor at no additional cost and feel positive that it’s the right match for your learning style.


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