SAT Math Strategies | 5 Prep Tips For Success

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If you’re not the strongest at Math, then the SAT Math test can look intimidating. It’s really not too bad. There are clear, easy SAT Math strategies you can use before, and during, test day to ensure a positive score result.

Here are 5 SAT Math strategies that will prepare you for test day success.

In addition, here are some common SAT Math mistakes we see students make.

Easy SAT Math Strategies For Test Day Success

Memorize Equations And Formulas Beforehand

To answer the questions faster and accurately, you need to know a number of equations and formulas. 

Concepts like the Pythagorean theorem, the quadratic equation, and the equation of a line will show up on the test

It’s important to note that at the beginning of the Math test, there is a list of necessary equations and formulas for reference. However, memorization is still a better strategy for a high Math score.

Instant recall of equations and formulas will naturally make you more confident in solving questions, which reduces nerves. More importantly, the more you go back to the reference page for formulas, the less time you have for answering.

Knowing which formula or equation to use immediately, and then answering the question fast buys you time to go back and review anything you aren’t sure about.

Layout Your Solutions Process

Write out your solutions step-by-step to keep track of your process and avoid mistakes.

Lots of students prefer doing all the calculations in their heads, if not on the calculator. It’s easy to fall into that habit with pretty easy calculations. However, you need to write out every single problem-solving step, no matter how simple it is.

A huge factor in SAT Math point loss is making simple mistakes—for instance, factoring numbers incorrectly, or misplacing your decimal point. These mistakes sound silly, and they are, but they cost you points regardless. Writing out every single step eliminates this risk.

Another reason to write out your steps is that you leave a map for reviewing the answer solution. If you can’t find a solution that matches what you’ve calculated, it’s easy to go back and retrace your steps for mistakes.

If you don’t write anything out though, don’t expect to figure out where it went wrong. You’ll thank yourself for writing everything out, rather than being mad for missing a critical point or two over foolish mistakes.

Draw Diagrams To Help Out

Drawing diagrams save time by working out problems more quickly.

Whenever a word problem describes a shape or figure, go ahead and draw it out. Drawing out diagrams for word problems helps make clear exactly what information you need to figure out. From there, you should be able to figure out the steps to get the correct answer.

This strategy is especially true for geometry questions. Here you’ll use concepts such as SOH CAH TOA and the Pythagorean theorem. A quick note: when presented with a figure or shape, don’t automatically assume it’s drawn to scale. If you are explicitly told so, then it’s fine.

The exception to this strategy is when you’re guessing on a question. If so, then go ahead and assume the graphic is drawn to scale. Since you’re guessing, it’s alright to use partial information versus no information at all.

Make Sure Your Calculator Is Authorized For Usage

The SAT is very specific about which calculators you can use on test day.

The College Board has clear guidelines about what you can use. We also have written about which specific calculator models are allowed on the SAT, for reference.

In general, most Texas Instruments (TI) calculators students use in school are allowed, so if you already have one you’re likely good. The only exception is TI calculators with CAS (Computer Algebra Systems) functionality. Also, you can’t use any smartphone calculator or anything that makes noise either.

Before test day, quickly check your calculator model versus what’s posted online. Moreover, make sure to practice using it so that you’re aware of all function keys, and how to use them.

To be on the safe side, make sure your calculator has fresh batteries too. Don’t get caught with a dead calculator in the middle of an SAT Math problem.

Don’t Rush To Finish

Use your time to answer everything correctly. 

One of the biggest mistakes we see students make is rushing through the Math section. Your goal isn’t to finish it for its own sake; you’re trying to get as many points as possible.

Unfortunately, rushing causes simple, avoidable mistakes. Those mistakes then cost you points. This becomes even worse when you finally hit the harder questions, which you may not know how to answer 100% correctly.

Instead, answer at a deliberate pace where you can be accurate, even if you lose some speed. If your pace is constant, then you don’t stress the time limit. This way, your chances of getting those easy points go up dramatically.

Even if you have to guess in the end, there’s still a good chance you’ll get some points. Better that than not finishing and guaranteeing yourself zero points. Points are your goal.

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