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Lucas Fink

Trigonometry on the SAT?

If you didn’t already know, you might be happy to hear that the SAT doesn’t dish out any high-level math. I’m not saying that every math problem on the SAT is easy—far from it—but the areas that it covers are meant to be familiar to the vast majority of high school students, regardless of their course of study.

Students in the most advanced math courses will typically take calculus in their junior or senior year of high school. That means that trigonometry is, for those students, covered in sophomore or junior year. But the SAT doesn’t include trigonometry. So for some students the only high school math class that’s directly tested on the SAT is from freshman year. That seems weird, right?


The SAT is for everybody!

Of course, most of us don’t take trigonometry in 10th grade; it’s much more common to take it in junior or senior year. Since SAT-takers are usually juniors and seniors, a bunch haven’t actually studied trig before the test. The SAT keeps to the more fundamental areas of math to reflect that. That means focus on SAT geometry, not SAT trigonometry.

But it’s also supposed to test the faculties of the most practiced and talented students. That sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it? You can’t possibly test the most advanced students and not use the most advanced math… right?


…well, kinda for everybody

Sorry, Charlie. The test makers have a number of ways of making even those more basic math topics into diabolically difficult questions.

That doesn’t mean that if your math score isn’t where you want it to be (and if you haven’t taken a practice test yet, take one ASAP), you can’t raise it. You can definitely improve your SAT math. Instead, it means that you won’t necessarily raise your SAT score by doing your math homework for school. If you want to practice the challenges that the SAT presents, you need to look at SAT problems. Nothing else will give you quite the same type of challenge.

By doing that, you can learn how to deal with those high-level questions. It’s all about practice.


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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