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Most people you run into don’t like doing Math. Of that percentage, even less enjoy doing it without the aid of their trusty calculators. Unfortunately, when taking the SAT, there is a specific set of questions requiring you to do just that.

Thankfully, we have the following SAT no calculator tips to help you out when the time comes.

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sat no calculator tips

Draw Diagrams

Pictures allow you to take chunks of either written information or numbers and boil them down into an easily understandable visual representation.

What’s the benefit of that representation? It makes it easy to see relationships between that information that you could otherwise miss. Case in point – when working out a trigonometry problem:

  • the first thing you should do is draw a triangle (if there isn’t one presented).
  • Second, label the diagram’s different angle measures and side lengths with your data.
  • Now, instead of having to think abstractly, just look at the diagram.

You should be able to see how to solve the problem easily by looking at everything together. Chances are good that you’ll solve it even faster than anticipated.

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Write Out Every Step

Math is often boring, because of how methodical it is usually. Take advantage of that process by writing everything out.

When solving a problem, literally write out every single step. It doesn’t matter how small it appears to be, write it down. Here’s why. Once you reach the end, and your solution doesn’t match any answer solution, you can now check.

Go back through every written step. See if an error was made. Fix it and recheck. You may worry about losing time but don’t stress. The extra minutes it’ll take to find the right answer is worth it.

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Memorize Helpful Equations And Formulas

While the SAT provides a math formula sheet, don’t be overly comfortable with it.

Instead, you should work on committing the most helpful ones to your memory beforehand:

  • First, you will waste time going back and forth between the formula sheet and the questions themselves. That wasted time could be used to either find a correct solution or recheck your incorrect work.
  • Second, your confidence in handling each question will increase. You won’t worry about whether or not you can solve a certain kind of problem. The steps to finish are already in your head.

Practice Without The Calculator Beforehand

Just because there’s a no calculator-specific section on the SAT doesn’t mean you should automatically use it everywhere else.

Both the SAT and ACT allow calculator usage, but knowing how to solve as many problems as possible without one has benefits:

  • First, it forces you to strengthen your understanding of the tested topics.
  • Second, your confidence, on the whole, will increase because you can everything without one.
  • Third, you eliminate the possibility of wrong answers due to inputting incorrect information. If you can solve a problem without one in a reasonable time, then go ahead and do it.

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Plug-In Provided Answer Choices

If you’re entirely unsure of how to solve a problem, then there’s a simple hack.

Take the provided solution choices and plug each one into the stated problem. If you end up with it working to solve the problem, well there you go. However, there are problems with doing this for every single problem:

  • First, answer plugging eats up a lot of time. Every single choice has to be verified, which takes away precious time.
  • Second, there are grid-in questions where you have to provide an answer instead of choosing one. That’s why you should always try to solve it without plugging first.

For more tips and information, check out Prep Expert.

Clay Cooper

Clay is a double-perfect scorer - within one week, he earned a 1600 on an official SAT and at 36 on an official ACT! Clay has also achieved 99th percentile scores on the PSAT, ISEE, GMAT, GRE, and LSAT. He has taught and developed courses for high school, college, and graduate-level standardized tests extensively around the country, and specializes in the field. He has studied law at Georgetown University Law Center and worked in the legal field as well, for attorneys, judges, and the Tennessee Attorney General.

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