# The SAT Mathematics Section Overview

## The SAT Mathematics Section Overview

SAT Mathematics Tips

What does it test?

According to the College Board’s website, the SAT Mathematics section includes questions on arithmetic operations, Algebra 1, Geometry, Statistics, and Probability. It does not test concepts from Algebra 2, Pre-calculus, Calculus, or AP Statistics classes. The good news is that once you’ve mastered high school algebra and geometry, you should know all the math concepts on the test. The challenge of the SAT is often the wording of the questions rather than the math concepts themselves.

What types of questions does it include?

The Mathematics section includes 44 standard multiple choice questions and 10 “student produced responses,” in which you must grid in the correct answer to a numeric problem. Both types of questions can be drawn from any of the tested concepts.

Are calculators allowed?

Yes, calculators are permitted! Before the test, review the College Board’s calculator policy to make sure that you have the correct type of calculator. Use this same calculator for school and all your practice before the test. Be aware, however, that using your calculator for every problem can waste valuable time. In fact, it is possible to solve every problem correctly without a calculator. Your tutor can help you identify when the calculator is helpful and when it is not.

How important is order of difficulty?

It is important to be aware that SAT math questions, within each section, are listed in order of difficulty. If the first question seems easy, it probably is. If you’re on one of the last questions in the section and it seems easy, however, it’s probably much trickier than you think. In fact, for some of the most difficult questions on the SAT, less than 20% of test-takers get the question correct, which means that the average score would have been higher if everyone had randomly guessed. The reason for this may be that there was a “distractor” answer that enticed most students, but the question was actually quite challenging and the real answer was more difficult to calculate. By learning to recognize tricky questions, you can learn to eliminate distractors and find the correct answer choice (or decide when it’s better to leave a question blank).

What is the best way to prepare for the SAT Mathematics section?

There are four important components of SAT math preparation: concept review, strategy practice, practice with SAT questions, and timed practice for pacing.

Concept Review: Although strategies are important, it’s impossible to get a good score without knowing the arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics concepts found on the test. If you’ve always been strong at math, a quick review should suffice. If you’ve struggled in previous math classes, however, you might need to spend some quality time reviewing and relearning the concepts.

Strategy Practice: Strategies can help you solve questions more quickly and efficiently. There is usually more than one correct way to solve every SAT question, and knowing several approaches to a question can help you save time by choosing the most efficient solution. For example, working backwards from the answer choices might help you solve an algebraic equation faster than simplifying the formula. Your tutor will teach you a variety of strategies so you can choose which one will be most helpful during the test. Also, if you finish early, it’s best to check your work with a different method from the one you used to solve the problem the first time.

Practice with SAT Questions: The College Board and several companies publish hundreds of SAT questions. As you practice, you will probably find yourself making mistakes—some careless errors, and some that you’re just not sure about. Learn from your careless mistakes before you take the real test, and don’t make the same mistake twice. For the questions you’re not sure about, your tutor can provide valuable explanations and feedback.

Timed Practice for Pacing: Because there is a guessing penalty and pacing is a challenge for some test-takers, you might not want to answer every question. It’s better to work carefully and leave a few questions blank than to work carelessly and get many questions wrong. Unlike a test in school, you can leave a significant number of questions blank and still score above average. If you are trying for a top score (700 or above), however, you should aim to answer every question correctly.

It’s vital to complete several rounds of timed practice with SAT questions. This way, you can decide how to pace yourself during the real test and how many (if any) questions you should leave blank to do your personal best. Your tutor can also help you with this decision.

How can a tutor help me prepare for the test?