# The SAT Math Section: What You Need to Know and How to Prepare

The SAT Math section can seem like a major hurdle, but with the right preparation, it’s entirely manageable. Whether you’re aiming for a perfect score or just looking to boost your overall SAT performance, understanding the types of math tested and how to approach them is key. The math section on the SAT is designed to measure your problem-solving skills, grasp of algebra, and ability to interpret data, all of which are skills that are essential for college-level work.

To help you feel confident on test day, we’ll walk through the various types of math you’ll encounter, how you can prepare, and tips for using (or not using) your calculator wisely. Let’s get into what you need to know to ace the SAT Math section.

## Types of Math Covered on the SAT

The SAT Math sections is divided into several types of math, each testing different skills. There are two Math sections, each one lasting 35 minutes long and containing 44 questions. You’ll see questions covering everything from algebra to geometry to advanced math concepts. Understanding the structure of the math section will give you a clearer picture of where to focus your studying.

### Math Questions on the SAT

Type of Math | Number of Questions |

Algebra | 13-15 |

Advanced Math | 13-15 |

Problem Solving and Data Analysis | 5-7 |

Geometry and Trigonometry | 5-7 |

### Algebra

Algebra plays a big role in the SAT Math section. You’ll need to work with linear equations and inequalities, interpret functions, and solve systems of equations. These questions are designed to test your ability to manipulate and solve for variables. You might be asked to simplify expressions or solve word problems using algebraic concepts.

A good way to prepare is to practice solving linear equations in different forms and understanding how to interpret graphs of functions. It’s also helpful to get comfortable with inequalities and how they work in equations. Focus on mastering these fundamental concepts because algebra is woven throughout many of the questions on the test.

### Advanced Math

Advanced math on the SAT goes beyond basic algebra and taps into your understanding of higher-level concepts like quadratic equations, polynomials, and rational expressions. You’ll encounter questions that require you to solve quadratic equations using various methods such as factoring, completing the square, or using the quadratic formula. Knowing how to work with polynomials and exponents is essential, too.

These questions are meant to challenge your problem-solving skills, so you’ll want to be comfortable with breaking down more complex expressions and equations. Take the time to review quadratic and polynomial equations thoroughly, as mastering these will help you breeze through this portion of the test.

### Problem Solving and Data Analysis

Problem-solving and data analysis questions are all about applying math to real-world situations. These questions typically involve interpreting tables, graphs, and charts, or analyzing ratios and proportions. You might have to work with percentages, probability, or unit conversions.

One of the best ways to prepare for this part of the math section is to practice reading and interpreting data. Pay attention to how information is presented and make sure you understand how to use ratios and proportions to solve problems. This is also the part of the test where real-world math skills, like calculating averages or analyzing trends, come into play.

### Geometry and Trigonometry

While the SAT is lighter on geometry than it used to be, you’ll still encounter a few questions on the test. Geometry questions cover topics like angles, triangles, circles, and basic three-dimensional figures. You’ll also see trigonometry questions, which typically focus on the relationships between the angles and sides of triangles.

To prepare for these questions, brush up on key geometric principles like the Pythagorean theorem, the properties of circles, and how to calculate the area and perimeter of various shapes. For trigonometry, make sure you’re comfortable with sine, cosine, and tangent functions. You won’t need to go too deep into trig, but understanding the basics will definitely come in handy.

## Calculator Use on the SAT

The SAT allows you to use a calculator on all of the math problems, but the truth is, you might not always need it. In fact, relying too heavily on a calculator can sometimes slow you down. While calculators are great for complex calculations, many SAT questions can be solved faster with reasoning and mental math.

Since the SAT has gone completely digital, there is now a built-in calculator that you can use, and you can practice with it online before test day. Knowing when to use the calculator and when to skip it is an important skill. For example, if a question involves simple multiplication or division, it’s often quicker to do it in your head rather than fumbling with a calculator.

The key is to practice solving problems both with and without the calculator. Get familiar with the types of questions where a calculator would be helpful, like multi-step equations or calculations with large numbers, and recognize when it might slow you down.

### Acceptable SAT Calculators

If you don’t want to use the built-in calculator, you are allowed to bring your own. Make sure you’re familiar with its functions and that it’s on the approved list!

Brand | Acceptable Models |

Casio | FX-6000 series, FX-6200 series, FX-6300 series, FX-6500 series, FX-7000 series, FX-7300 series, FX-7400 series, FX-7500 series, FX-7700 series, FX-7800 series, FX-8000 series, FX-8500 series, FX-8700 series, FX-8800 series, Graph25 series, FX-9700 series, FX-9750 series, FX-9860 series, CFX-9800 series, CFX-9850 series, CFX-9950 series, CFX-9970 series, FX 1.0 series, Algebra FX 2.0 series, FX-CG-10, FX-CG-20 series, FX-CG-50, Graph35 series, Graph75 series, Graph95 series, Graph100 series, FX-CG-500 (may not use stylus) |

Hewlett-Packard (HP) | HP-9G, HP-28 series, HP-38G, HP-39 series, HP-40 series, HP-48 series, HP-49 series, HP-50 series, HP Prime |

Radio Shack | EC-4033, EC-4034, EC-4037 |

Sharp | EL-5200, EL-9200 series, EL-9300 series, EL-9600 series (may not use stylus), EL-9900 series |

Texas Instruments (TI) | TI-73, TI-80, TI-81, TI-82, TI-83, TI-83 Plus, TI-83 Plus Silver, TI-84 Plus, TI-84 Plus CE, TI-84 Plus CE Python, TI-84 Plus Silver, TI-84 Plus C Silver, TI-84 Plus T, TI-84 Plus CE-T, TI-84 Plus CE-T Python Edition, TI-85, TI-86, TI-89, TI-89 Titanium, TI-Nspire, TI-Nspire CX, TI-Nspire CX II, TI-Nspire CX II-T, TI-Nspire CM-C, TI-Nspire CAS, TI-Nspire CX CAS, TI-Nspire CX II CAS, TI-Nspire CX II-T CAS, TI-Nspire CM-C CAS, TI-Nspire CX-C CAS, TI-Nspire CX II-C CAS |

Other | Datexx DS-883, Micronta, NumWorks, Smart^{2} |

## Student-Produced Responses

The SAT Math section includes multiple-choice questions, but it also features student-produced responses, often referred to as “grid-in” questions. For these, you’ll need to calculate the answer yourself and write it in the provided grid. There are no answer choices to fall back on, so you’ll need to be confident in your calculations.

These grid-in questions can cover any of the math topics we’ve discussed, and the answers can range from simple integers to fractions or decimals. Since there are no penalties for wrong answers on the SAT, it’s important to attempt every question, even if you’re not entirely sure of the answer.

To prepare for grid-in questions, practice solving problems without answer choices and make sure you understand how to enter your answers correctly. For example, if the answer is a fraction, you’ll need to grid it in properly without using a mixed number.

## Test-Taking Tips for SAT Math

One of the best ways to improve your SAT Math score is to develop strong test-taking strategies. These aren’t just about knowing the material, but also about managing your time and maintaining focus throughout the test.

Start by pacing yourself. Each math section has a set number of questions, and it’s important to keep an eye on the clock so that you don’t run out of time. If you find yourself stuck on a tough question, move on and come back to it later. It’s better to answer the easier questions first and ensure you get those points before tackling the more difficult ones.

When reading word problems, take the time to break down the question into smaller parts. Identify what the problem is asking, what information is given, and what steps you need to take to find the solution. If a question seems overly complicated, there’s a good chance you can simplify it by focusing on the key details.

Don’t forget to double-check your work if time allows. It’s easy to make small mistakes, especially if you’re rushing through a section. Reviewing your answers can help you catch those errors and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Another tip is to practice with full-length practice tests under timed conditions. This will help you build stamina and get a feel for the pacing of the actual exam. The more familiar you are with the format of the test, the more comfortable you’ll feel on test day.

## Prepare with Confidence

The SAT Math section covers a wide range of topics, from algebra to advanced math to geometry and trigonometry. To do well, it’s important to understand these topics, practice problem-solving, and develop effective test-taking strategies.

My philosophy here at Prep Expert is that test taking is a skill that any student can learn. Even if you struggle with math, you can still do well on the math section by honing these test-taking skills and knowing what to expect. You **can** do this, and we’re here to help you unlock your full potential. Doing well on the SAT can help you get into your dream school and even help you pay for it. If you’re looking for additional support as you prepare for the SAT Math section, explore the Prep Expert SAT course catalog. With the right guidance and preparation, you can walk into the test feeling confident and ready to succeed!

#### Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author##### More from Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

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