New SAT Math Overview

SAT Math Overview - magoosh

The Basics of New SAT Math

Unlike the old SAT in which the concepts varied over tests, the New SAT is very specific about exactly the types of questions that you’ll see on test day. While this knowledge might seem academic (Why should I care? Don’t I just have to get the question right?), knowing how often a certain concept pops up will help you prioritize your prep time.
Trigonometry, one of the concepts that everybody is worried about, falls under a section called Additional Topics in Math. Since there are a few other question types that fall under Additional Topics, you’ll likely seeing a grand total of two trigonometry questions. So before you knock yourself out over SOHCAHTOA and the unit circle, back away from the 600-page trig book and take a deep breath: there are far better ways to spend your prep time.


Basic Facts about the Math Section

  • Time Allotted: 80 minutes
  • Total Questions: 58
  • Calculator portion: 38 questions, 55 minutes (about 1:30 minutes per question)
  • No-Calculator portion: 20 questions, 25 minutes (1:15 minutes per question)

New SAT Math Question types:

  • Multiple-choice (always with four options): 45 questions
  • Student-produced response (fancy speak for “what’s the answer, buddy?”): 13 questions


Concept # of questions Percent of the test
Heart of Algebra 19 33%
Problem Solving and Data Analysis 17 29%
Passport to Advanced Math 16 28%
Additional Topics in Math 6 10%


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Here is a high-level breakdown of each concept:

Heart of Algebra:

This is your meat-and-potatoes algebra, the basic stuff. No exponents next to your ‘x’s. This is what we call linear equations. 4x + 1 = 7. Of course, the test won’t ask you to solve basic equations like that. Instead, it’ll give you really long word problems in which the solutions amounts to something like 3n – 3 = 12. And assuming that’s the right equation, all you’ll have to do is solve for ‘n’.


Problem Solving and Data Analysis:

This is basically the graph and table section: bar charts, pie graphs, tedious tables with a bunch of figures for you to sort through. There will also be a fair number of word problems that ask anything involving ratios and percents, to questions dealing with median and mode.


Passport to Advanced Math:

This is the part most are dreading, high-order polynomials. However, often it’s nothing more than the ax^2 + bx + c variety will often be buried under a mass of verbiage, as in a 12-line word problem that you must solving using a polynomial. Often, you’ll have to find creative ways to balance the equation and solve for ‘x’.


Additional Topics:

This is the frustratingly vague section in which all the remainders got thrown in to, in no particular order, they are geometry, coordinate geometry and trigonometry.


For everything you need to master all parts of the SAT Math section, check out Magoosh’s SAT eBook!

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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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