SAT Video Friday – All Squared Away

Sometimes we want to force an equation on to every problem with unknowns. However, catch yourself if you suddenly hit a wall. What does that feel like? You are desperately scrambling to write some kind of equation and all you get are a bunch of scribbles and the sinking feeling that nobody could solve this thing.

The key is to stop and say this is the SAT, not my math class. I don’t have to show the work, the step-by-step, time-consuming process. I just need to get the answer.

The possible approaches include the following three:


Think about the parameters of the problem. Is there any short cut, working just with the numbers?

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Backsolving/plugging in

The first one is when there are no variables in the answer choices, just solid numbers. Use those numbers by working backwards and putting them into the problem. If you try that with an answer choice and you get an answer that is different from the numbers provided in the question, then you know the answer choice you worked with is not the actual answer choice.

Plugging-in is when you come up with actual values for the variables in the answer choice or some unknown in the question.

Smart elimination

This ties together pretty closely with logic, since you’ll have to use some of that here. Look at the numbers in the question. Then, look at the answer choices. Are any of the answer choices too big or too small to possibly be the answer? If so, eliminate them. Even if you can’t eliminate everything, you increase your chances of guessing correctly.

Challenge question

The area of a square is increased by 100%. By approximately what percent is the length of each side increased?

(A) 40%
(B) 44%
(C) 50%
(D) 75%
(E) 100%

Watch the video below to see how to solve this problem:

Leave me any questions or comments in the comment box below! 🙂


  • 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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