4 quick tips for the math section of the SAT


1. You won’t need an advanced calculator. One of the nice (or not so nice, depending on how you look at it) things about the SAT math section is that you have to rely on your own abilities in order to do well. In other words, not even the biggest, baddest calculator in the world will save you if you don’t know your stuff. The content on the SAT is relatively simple (nothing beyond algebra and geometry), and you could very well tackle the test without a calculator. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to have a simple one (a stripped-down four function one is fine) to check your basic calculations. After all, a simple arithmetic error could cost you the right answer!

2. There’s a big difference between “simple” and “easy.” We said the content is “simple.” By this, we mean that the numbers themselves will be easy to deal with and there won’t be any super-hard calculations. You’re more likely to be asked to add 3 + 4 than to multiply 3.657 x 47.5968, or something ridiculous like that. What makes the SAT math section challenging is the way in which the test makers ask you to synthesize information in unique ways. The hardest SAT math questions require you to draw upon knowledge from several areas at once. For example, you might be asked about special right triangles and circumference in the same problem.

3. There’s no shame in writing out your work! You’re allowed to write in your test booklet, so you might as well use it. Trying to do everything in your head is the surest way to make a silly mistake. It’s especially dangerous since there’s no partial credit on the SAT. It’s always better to take a moment and do the work by hand, so you know you’ll get the right numbers. Writing out your work is also a great thing to do if you get stuck on a problem. Write down all the information given to you in the question and see if you might have missed something along the way.

4. Get practice on the Student-Produced Response section. Learn how to grid in decimals and fractions correctly. The last thing you want is to get a correct answer and then grid it incorrectly on your answer sheet. You can practice on College Board’s official site.

Good luck with your preparations!

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