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How to master SAT math? Here is everything you need to know!

The SAT is a standardized test administered by the College Board for students seeking admission to undergraduate schools. Once you decide to appear for the SAT exam, you need to master all the sections. The SAT consists of Reading, Writing, and Math sections. SAT Math can seem difficult for some students, but it is subjective. Preparing for Math understandably requires memorization of formulas and a lot of practice. Students should know how to recognize trick questions and finish the exam within the allotted time. The right approach to test prep will help you obtain the desired scores in Math. SAT Math tests your understanding of mathematical concepts, procedural skills, fluency in math, and the ability to apply mathematical concepts in the real world.


Eager to know more about the Math section and techniques to ace it like a pro? This article will cover critical details about SAT Math section and valuable tips for students vying for high scores.



Structure of SAT Math


The first step to mastering the Math section is to familiarize yourself with the structure of the test. Math has two sections - no calculator and calculator. The ‘no calculator’ section will have 15 multiple-choice questions and 5 grid-ins. Students will get 25 minutes to finish this section. The calculator section will have 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 grid-ins. These need to be finished within 55 minutes. Students should prepare for a total of 58 questions in the Math section. They will get four answer choices for multiple choice questions.


SAT Math questions
It's important to familiarize yourself with the structure of the SAT Math.



Contents and Syllabi


There are three main categories in SAT Math: Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis. There is one more category called Additional Topics which makes up for just 10% of the SAT Math exam.


Heart of Algebra


Linear equations, linear relationships, functions, graphs, and word problems are covered in this section. Solving linear equations and linear inequalities, interpreting linear functions, linear inequality, and equation word problems, graphing linear equations, linear function word problems, systems of linear inequalities word problems, and solving systems of linear equations are the official topics students will have to study for in this section.


Passport to Advanced Math

This section deals with nonlinear expressions. Quadratic equations, Exponential expressions, and Word problems are the main topics covered in this section. Students will have to solve operations with rational expressions and polynomials, polynomial factors and graphs, nonlinear equation graphs, linear and quadratic systems and structure in expressions, isolating quantities and functions.


Problem-solving and Data analysis


Rates, ratios, percentages, and data from graphs and tables are the highlights of this section. Students should practice using tables to summarize data, estimating populations based on sample data, and evaluating tables, graphs, or text summaries.


Additional Topics in Math


Additional Topics in Math include volume word problems, right triangle word problems, congruence and similarity, right triangle geometry, angles, arc lengths, trigonometry functions, circle theorems, circle equations, and complex numbers.



How do you ace the no-calculator and calculator sections?


As mentioned earlier, SAT Math has two sections called the no-calculator and calculator sections. Students who are too dependent on calculators for solving problems will have to practice and mentally prepare themselves ahead of the test. The trick to acing both sections is to understand what concepts each section will test.


No calculator section


When attempting the no calculator section, students need to know the ins and outs of a problem as they can’t rely on a calculator to mask their shortcomings in math. The objective of the College Board is to test students’ skills to perform computations. Students must have clarity on all the concepts and formulae. They should be able to recall important rules and equations.

The no calculator section is all about quickly performing calculations like factoring/foiling, long division/multiplication, exponents/roots, and solving systems of equations. Students should know the steps involved in solving a problem. One missed step can result in wrong answers. A few helpful tips to ace the no-calculator section are as follows:


● Understanding laws of distribution

● Knowing standard problems of equations

● Knowing how to substitute values into an equation

● Distributing negatives, squaring/multiplying values, and simplifying radicals



Calculator section


The calculator section permits the use of calculators. But this doesn’t mean you have to use a calculator to solve every problem. Relying on calculators too much can slow you down. Students need to have a firm grasp of the statistics to ace this section. This section doesn’t test students’ calculation skills. Rather it focuses on data analysis. Students should have the ability to read charts, tables, and graphs. They should pay attention to basic statistics concepts to ace this section. Linear, parabolic, and exponential equations should also be practiced thoroughly. Taking multiple practice tests will help determine which questions demand a calculator and which ones are better solved without a calculator.



How to study effectively?


Your math classes in school will acquaint you with many of the SAT Math concepts. But the SAT tests these concepts in a unique way. Your SAT Math scores depend on how well you devise your preparation strategies. Here are a few useful tips to study effectively for the SAT Math:


1. Take a practice test


The first step is to take a practice test that will guide you through the math topics to focus on. Once you have a clear idea of the Math topics, you can build an effective study program.


2. Collect study materials


Gather the best quality materials for your preparation. You can find multiple SAT prep materials online. The College Board has also released plenty of preparation materials for students.


3. Make a study timetable


Designing a timetable will help you stay focused on your preparation. Set weekly goals and allot time for topics accordingly. A study plan will ensure that you stay on track.


4. Spend time on important topics


Focus on topics that need more practice. Evaluate if you can achieve your weekly goals. Monitor the areas that need improvement and adjust your study plan accordingly.


5. Learn to perform basic calculations


Avoid calculators and strengthen your mental calculation skills. Do calculations using pencil and paper as much as possible to prepare for the ‘no calculator’ section.


6. Avoid distractions


Keep mobile devices and other distractions away. Place a water bottle beside your table and stay hydrated during practice sessions. Study in a clean environment to boost focus and finish preparation faster.


7. Stick to your plan, no matter what!


Follow your study plan no matter what happens. Discipline is a vital ingredient to mastering SAT Math. Once you compromise on your study plan, procrastination will become a habit.


Study Planner
No matter what happens, stick to your SAT study plan.


Useful strategies to improve your score


If you are beating yourselves up for low scores, using certain strategies will help you improve your score. Here are a few important strategies that students can confidently rely on to obtain desired results.


1. Don’t skip any question


There are no deductions for wrong answers. Students can attempt every question even if they aren’t sure about the answer. Answer the easy questions first and go back to difficult questions once you are done with the entire section. Guess wisely and do not fall prey to the ‘none of the above’ answer choice. It is unlikely to be the correct answer for most of the difficult questions.


2. Narrow down the answers


Each question has four answer choices which means you already have the answer in front of you. Instead of finding the correct answer by solving the problem from scratch, you can just pick an answer and plug it into the equation to see if it fits. Eliminate choices that seem incorrect. Narrow down your answers and work backward to arrive at the correct answer.


3. Pick a value and plug it in the correct answer


Picking numbers is a strategy that involves replacing variables with numbers that fit the criteria in the question. This strategy saves time and works best if students are not sure of the right method to solve the problem.


4. Try estimating


This approach works best with problems that have a diagram or require students to draw a diagram. Sketch a diagram to visualize the problem better if there is no diagram provided and start estimating the answer. Estimating can save both time and energy.


5. Be familiar with math language


You will encounter statements with phrases like ‘the difference between…’, ‘sum of the …’, ‘product, of’ etc. Students should be able to decode the meaning of these statements. ‘Product of’ denotes multiplication, and ‘sum of’ denotes addition. Practice thoroughly and pay attention to these phrases so you are not clueless on the test day.



Things to remember before your test


Once you are done practicing and revising, here are a few final things to remember before appearing for the test. Following simple instructions such as these will help you breeze through the exam:


1. Replicate test-taking conditions


Replicate test-taking conditions when practicing for the exam. If you practice without timing yourself, you will struggle with time management on the test day. Appear for the practice exam similar to how you would on the exam day. Use an SAT-approved calculator and strictly adhere to the instructions to get acquainted with the test conditions.


2. Underline key parts of the question


Underline the important parts of the question to avoid confusion during the exam. Sometimes lengthy questions can mislead students and distract them from the important information they need to focus on.


3. Work it out!


Doing mental calculations can save a great deal of time. But students should work on the questions step by step for complicated math to avoid silly errors. Such an approach will help keep your thought process straight.


4. Seek help from a tutor


Individual attention can help students enhance their test preparation process. A tutor can guide the students throughout the preparation journey with useful tips and tricks to master the section.



Winding up


The Math section may seem difficult to master if you are unaware of the methods and strategies to ace this section. Scoring well in SAT Math doesn’t have to be an onerous task. Applying a few tricks like the ones mentioned here can go a long way in taking you closer to your goals. SAT Math is all about mastering the concepts and knowing how to apply them on the test day. SAT tests students’ knowledge of the concepts in strange ways and that is where most students fail. Once you know the SAT pattern and structure, you have won half the battle. Aim for perfection if you wish to score well in the SAT exam. If you aim for an 800 in the first attempt, you may get somewhere close to 700.



Want to Improve Your SAT Math Score?


Need an individualized care system to take your SAT prep to the next level? Prestige Institute delivers SAT prep courses to students that prioritize individual approach on their strengths and weaknesses for fast improvement. Students can choose from online and offline sessions and leverage self-paced programs depending on their schedules. Get in touch with us now and schedule a free consultation to start your SAT prep journey!

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