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Chris Lele

SAT Math Section

The SAT Math Section may not be a breeze, but it’s significantly less challenging if you know what to expect. If you missed our Intro to the SAT post, take a moment to go back and read Part I of The SAT Math Section Explained.

The SAT Math Section Explained: Part II

It’s important to know how many questions, how much time, and what type of questions are on the SAT math. Below is a quick breakdown.

SAT Math Section Breakdown

So what exactly does the SAT math section look like? One way is to crack open the College Board and look. What you’ll see are three math sections. Two of the math sections have multiple-choice questions. One section has both multiple-choice questions and “fill-in-the-blank” style questions, which are called grid-in questions.

1st math section: 20 questions 25 minutes

2nd math section: 18 questions (8 multiple choice, 10 grid-ins) 25 minutes

3rd math section: 16 questions 20 minutes

Here is some other important stuff you should know regarding the SAT match sections.

#1 Order of difficulty

For the most part, the higher the question number, the harder the question. So question #1, should be really simple, as in 95% of test takers get it right. And out of the 5% who got it wrong most probably just made a careless error. The very last question of a math section, by contrast, probably stumps about 80% of test takers.

Questions in the middle should be about average difficulty, meaning if you are careful and know your math basics, you should have a fair shot of getting the question right.

Finally, the reason I said for the most part is sometimes question #11, let’s say, maybe slightly more difficult than #13, based on the difficulty level ranking provided by the College Board. And there is always the subjective difficulty: you might struggle with geometry so even a relatively easy geometry question is tougher than a medium algebra question.

#2 Each question is worth the same

This piece of info is pretty counterintuitive for many. However, the SAT doesn’t see it that way. Even the most difficult question is worth the exact same as an easy question.

How do you use this knowledge to your advantage? First off, do not rush through the section just to get to the end: there are no extra points for finishing. Instead, slow down and do your best trying to answer the easy- and medium-level difficulty questions. By not rushing through these questions, you will be less likely to make careless mistakes.

#3 There is no guessing penalty on the grid-in questions

That’s right—guess to your heart’s content on these questions. You’re not likely to get the question right if you take a total stab in the dark. But if you have done the problem and at least come up with some answer, even if you think it is wrong, always guess. Your answer may actually be correct. And if not, you don’t get penalized.


About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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