Just as everyone has individual strengths, everyone has individual weaknesses. When starting your SAT math prep journey, it is essential to look for and strengthen your weaknesses. In this situation, it is recommended to focus on them. Dwell on them not in a negative way, but in a way to improve them. Work on the aspects that aren’t as strong and the test will make a lot more sense when the time comes to take it. Those minor improvements you made on your math or reading weaknesses will turn into major point leaps when the exam gets tallied up at the end.

Generally, people have an idea of their weaknesses in a specific math area or reading level, but having an SAT math teacher can be a big boost. A tutor will see things you may have missed and can ease you through. Their unbiased and outside perspective on the study material and your understanding will also allow them to make constructive suggestions. Building on what you already know, taking a group course or having your own personal SAT math tutor is usually a huge leg up on properly preparing and bumping up your overall SAT score.

Deciding whether to go for an SAT revision course or with a private tutor is a complex decision. Choosing the course that will be the best fit while also vetting the teacher or tutor for quality and reputation can be a lengthy process. There are a few tips and tricks on how to choose a course, tutor, and which criteria the decision should be made upon.

  • The flexibility of your weekly schedule
  • Your learning style
  • How much you are willing and able to spend?

These are all indicators that will help you determine which path of study you take. You might be an audio-visual learner or you might learn best in a group setting where you can discuss with others the topics and the challenges you are facing. Or you might also find the one-on-one attention of a private tutor much more helpful.

studying on a desk with photos and books
Figuring out your ideal score will help you determine what areas you need to improve on. Photo cred: Thought Catalog on Upsplash

What's Your Ideal Score?

What is your goal for the exam? More exactly, what score are you trying to achieve? Gaining a few points on the exam can take many hours of additional study but sometimes there is a threshold you are trying to meet because the college or university you want to get admitted into requires a specific scoring range.

The math and verbal sections are based on a scoring cap of 800 points, making it the highest point value per section. The entire exam is based on a total of 1600 possible points. Everyone wants to get a perfect score, but if your dream school doesn’t require a perfect 1600 it is most likely not worth the time, money, and effort to achieve that level. Instead, focus your attention on other aspects of the exam.

Now that you have an idea of your weak spots and have honed in on an ideal score range, you can begin scheduling it. Start planning out your days. A study schedule can be like having a guardian angel looking over your shoulder. By scheduling your days ahead of time, you can save that energy for making decisions relative to the right answer on the exam.

The college board as well as most programs recommended giving yourself 2-3 months to practice. You can take the exam as many times as you like, but the cost of the exam can have a bigger impact on some. Plus, why spend more if you don’t have to.

The official SAT math section is broken up into two sections, the first without a calculator, while the second section allows a non-scientific calculator.

The proctored exam is also timed – 25 minutes for the first math section and 55 minutes for the second math section, totaling 80 minutes for 58 questions. This is heady for sure but knowing how the test will be structured will help you strategize your best method of test execution.

A great rule of thumb is to allocate approximately one minute per question. This should give you enough time to go through all the questions, mark the ones you know, and then return to check your answers.

scientific calculator laying on a yellow background
In the second section of the Math SAT, you will be able to use your calculator. Photo cred: Clayton robbins on Upsplash

Strategies Are Your Friend

Having a strategy is your best friend on a multiple-choice test like the SAT. Most of the time there is a question and then 4-5 possible answers below. The hard part is figuring out which one is correct. Of course, if you know the answer right off the bat, you can save time and select it. But even then, it is recommended to eliminate the other options by deciding why they aren’t correct.

This shift in thinking will help you eliminate incorrect options and increase your odds of selecting the right one. Let’s say you have four questions, and you eliminate two. Your probability of choosing the correct one went from 25% to 50%. That’s a huge increase that can carry profound effects on the ultimate results of your exam, ultimately boosting the points you score.

When going through a question in the reading section, note the context and connotation used in that question. Try to pull out the numbers they use. Pay close attention to positive and negative, with or without. Sometimes by literally rewriting the question you will better understand it and be able to see the correct answer.

Some of the wording the exam designers use is meant to confuse you. An SAT math tutor will help you pull out the essentials from these confusing questions and see what they are asking. Sometimes, the exam is trying to trick you so don’t let it.

Underlining the key parts of the questions will help you filter through the essentials of the questions and the filler. There is always a lot of filler in these questions and it's meant to distract you, but by underlining what is important, you can boil the question down to what is being asked. This will also help you save time so you can go back and revise your choices at the end.

an open book on great grass
Always read the passage and write down the essential points in your booklet. Photo cred: Nadine Shaabana on Upsplash

Read The Passage

At the beginning of every passage, there is an introductory prompt that describes what should be done. Make sure you pay attention to these passages because they hold the key to what you are trying to answer. Passages normally in bold or italicized will give you the context of the questions that follow. This can be further used to figure out the find the evidence type questions where you will be asked to support an answer.

The best method of execution is to go through the test and answer the questions you know are correct. After you have done that, return to the beginning and start solving for the ones you left blank. Ultimately, if you don’t know an answer, it is always better to guess than leave it blank. On the SAT, only questions with the correct answers will be counted, while questions you answered wrong will not. So, you can only increase your odds of finding the right answer and improving your score.

Selecting someone to hold you accountable will be a large component of your testing success. It is super easy to get caught up in life and skip a lesson or two, but keep in mind that those small changes can have a big impact on your ultimate score.


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