Strategies for New SAT Math

With the increase number of concepts on the test, it is my sense that many students are going to get bogged down in the minutiae of each kind of question (gee, I don’t think I really understand how to divide complex polynomials to figure out what the remainder is). What is ultimately the most important factor is how well you are able to focus for a few hours and wade through all the language to get at the answer. In the end, many questions you’ll be able to answer correctly, won’t be questions that you will answer correctly.



Do Timed Practice

Why is this? Well, you will not have likely done as many timed drills on dense word problems. This is a skill in of itself, and one that most will end up ignoring in favor of studying some concept that has a relatively low chance of showing up on the test, and showing up the way you think it will.

Review Math Weaknesses

At the same time, do concept review in weak areas, and this is especially the case if you are struggle at math. Always remember, the time practice sessions are going to make you a better test taker and that’s where you’ll be able to see a lot of your score improvement.

Do Mixed Math Practice

Another good strategy, when doing drills, is to make sure you do mixed practice sets. That is, don’t only focus on algebra or passport to advanced math. Do actual practice tests that have the random variety of question types that you’ll see test day. Part of difficulty is often figuring out the subject that is being tested. By having that given to you from the get go, it dulls your ability to recognize this concept.

Know that SAT Math Difficulty Increases

Yet, one last area in which practice tests will help you is in the grading of difficulty. Remember, the test is written in such a way so that a certain difficulty-level question is usually at a certain spot in the section. This relationship tends to be pretty linear in the sense that the higher the number within a specific math section (the difficulty will “reset” when you get to Student-Produced Response (SPR) questions), the harder the question. Knowing this can help you catch careless errors. Did the last question in the section seem too easy? You might have missed something. Does one of the earlier questions seem impossible? Make sure you read the question again, because there might be some vital information that you are forgetting.

Finally, make sure you take those practice tests about once a week. That way you can get exposure to the nuanced ways the test is constructed, you can get information on whether or not you are improving (and use this to tweak how you’ve been studying), and you can get used to what’s going to happen on test day; with also lots of sitting and lots of focusing.

Looking for more tips to crush the SAT Math section? Check out our video 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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