increase your math sat score

11 Strategies Proven to Increase Your Math SAT Score

Do your eyes light up every time you see an algebraic formula? Does your heart skip a beat when someone asks you to find the area of a triangle? Do you look forward to your 8 AM math class, hoping that your teacher gives you a pop quiz on angles or percentages? Do you enjoy solving practice problems to increase your Math SAT score?

Probably not.

The very thought of studying the Pythagorean theorem probably makes you queasy, and the slightest mention of the SAT Math Section is likely to send shivers down your spine. Fortunately for you, we’re here to make the SAT Math Section a little more approachable. But before that, let us look at why you have to take the SAT Math prep seriously.

Why aim for a high Math Section score

If you are not good in Reading and Writing, well, your goal should be to increase your Math SAT score. It will help you get into your dream college or give you a lot of school options especially if your other college admission requirements are excellent. 

Another reason why you should earn a good score in the Math section is that some technical schools are selective and they only admit the best student applicants especially if the major is Math, Physics, Statistics, and other Science and quantitative related courses. Some examples of the schools we are talking about are Harvard, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Princeton. You will need some serious strategies for your SAT Math prep to get admitted. 

Useful SAT Math Tips

Here are 11 SAT Math tips that are sure to help you conquer the Math Section once and for all. It is as easy as:

1. Answer EVERY question

All throughout your academic career you’ve been taught that you should always answer EVERY question on EVERY test, even if it means taking a shot in the dark and guessing, all the while hoping that the math gods are smiling down upon you.

“Just guess all Cs?” This strategy may not work in the old SAT since you lose a quarter of a point for every wrong answer. But in the new SAT, there are no deductions when you answer something incorrectly.

Thus, in order to ensure that you can earn as many correct answers as possible, finish the entire math section, and guess wisely if you do not know the answer. This will give you time to focus your energy on the questions you know you can answer correctly.

So how do you know which questions to answer first? Well the SAT math sections order their questions based on difficulty, starting with easy problems and ending with more difficult ones.

Easy questions? Just do it! Move through these questions quickly without error in your SAT Math prep, spending the least amount of time trying to solve them. You’re smart and will get most of them right anyway.

Medium questions? Spend most of your time in this section during your SAT Math prep and the actual test. Don’t rush and feel free to write A LOT! Write out equations and draw pictures. You probably know the material, but these questions will require some extra attention.

Difficult questions? Spend only the remaining amount of time trying to solve these ones. To increase your SAT Math score with zero extra studying, simply stop rushing through the easy and medium problems to get to these. These questions are going to be tricky, but here are some extra inside tips into narrowing down your options if you get to them. Apply these in your SAT Math prep so you become expert over time.

  • Eliminate the obvious answer. If it seems too easy, it’s probably incorrect.
  • Eliminate repeat numbers. If a question shows a number in the problem and the same number is an answer choice, it’s probably a trick–don’t let them lure you in!
  • Eliminate the least or greatest number if it says “find the least or greatest number that fulfills certain conditions.”
  • Eliminate the answer “it cannot be determined from the information given.” This is usually a lure for students who are not able to solve the problem and likely to be incorrect in the difficult section.

2. Plug It In

Here’s one of the classic SAT Math tips! The majority of the math exam is multiple choice. What does this mean for you? The correct answer is already staring you in the face; it’s up to you to narrow down the answers!

Instead of trying to write a bunch of equations and solve a big mess of variables, pick a value, and plug it in to see which one of the five answer choices fits the bill. If the answer choices to percent problems are all percentages, the answer choices to word problems are all algebraic expressions or variables, or the problem says “in terms of,” you will want to use this strategy.

Here are some plugin tips to outwit the test makers and increase your math SAT score:

  • Avoid picking 0, 1, and -1 in general
  • If you need to pick an odd number, do not pick 1, -1, 3, or -3

  • If you need to pick 2 numbers, pick numbers that are far away from each other

  • For percentage problems, the number that is easiest to work with is almost always 100

3. Answers First

Similar to plugging it in, the “answers first” strategy works best for complex word problems with numeric answer choices. You can try applying this strategy in your SAT Math practice so you can get better at it.

This strategy involves working with the answers already there and working backward to see if the answer choice works in the situation presented in the problem. (Word to the wise: this strategy is not ideal for answer choices with variables, radicals, or fractions. Too messy.)

Basically, close your eyes (not literally) and choose an answer choice to check against the problem. You have a 20% chance of guessing right on the first try. If you do manage to guess correctly on your first try, CONGRATS! Go buy a lottery ticket after the SAT! If not, don’t fret. You’re now one step closer to getting the correct answer.

So let’s say you’re not feeling very lucky the morning of your SAT test. Which answer choice should you try first? Answer = C. Answer choices are always ordered from least to greatest, so choosing C is a savvy starting point. If you find that C is incorrect because the value is too high, then you can automatically discount choices D and E since they will be too high as well. If the value of C is too low, then the same goes for choices A and B. Wow, we just narrowed down your choices from 5 to 2 in one step. Make sure to apply this on your SAT Math practice. You’re welcome! 

4. It’s in the Ballpark

No, we aren’t talking about America’s favorite pastime. What we’re really getting at is our favorite strategy: ESTIMATING! This especially comes in handy with problems that have a diagram or require that you draw a diagram.

Quick fact! Unless the test specifically indicates that a diagram is “not drawn to scale”, it is ALWAYS drawn to scale. In questions that have no diagrams, are not drawn to scale, or contain only partial information, use the given information to sketch your own complete diagram. Then, estimate what the answer is. Start applying this in your SAT Math prep for better results.

5. MLA: Math Language & Algebra

Remember the good old days when math didn’t include the alphabet? Well, those nostalgic times are far behind you now and it’s only going to get more complicated when you throw in all types of symbols, letters, and phrases. But don’t let all the weird symbols freak you out. Look past them and change word problems into algebraic equations that you can solve. Numbers are easier to add than letters anyway.

Being able to translate “math language” is an important skill to develop before taking the SAT. Most of the problems will not include any addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division symbols. Instead, they will feature phrases to test your knowledge and understanding of this foreign language.

We have decoded some common phrases that you will encounter to help you with your SAT Math practice:

  • Sum, more than = add
  • Difference, less than = subtract
  • Product, of, times = multiplication
  • Twice = 2 times
  • Quotient = division
  • Squares = exponent
  • Is = equals
  • A number = a variable such as “x”
  • Integer = numbers without fractions or decimals (…-2, -1, 0, 1, 2…)
  • Consecutive integers = x + (x+1) + (x+2)…
  • Consecutive odd or even integers = x + (x+2) + (x+4)…

6. Find out your weakness and work on them

Even if you are not aiming to go to the Ivy League schools, you should still do your best on the SAT test. This tip applies not only in the SAT Math section but to the other sections as well. If you already know the concepts and the formula, and you still get incorrect answers whenever you do a practice test, carefully analyze what is your weakness, and work on them. For instance, if you already know how to manipulate polynomials, how to solve quadratic equations, and exponential functions but you keep failing to answer a certain practice test question that applies them, allot more time in answering similar questions until you become good at them.

7. Work on your Math content gaps

Another very important Math SAT tip is to work on your content knowledge on Math. To do this, you first have to research what are the skills you need to learn that are included in the SAT Math Section. Once you already have the list, encircle the topics or skills that are unfamiliar to you and do your best to research it or find someone who can help you understand it better. 

8. Choose SAT practice resources wisely

When choosing your SAT practice materials, make sure that they are not outdated because the SAT Math section changed dramatically in 2016. To avoid this, research first what are the skills and concepts included in the new SAT. You may also visit the website of CollegeBoard to get an idea about the test. After doing this, you can look for more online resources and SAT Math practice books in your school library

9. Monitor your time during practice tests

Why is it important to monitor the time you spend answering questions? Well, if you spend too much time answering a difficult question, you won’t have enough time for the rest. The ideal time you should spend in a question is 30 seconds. If it is beyond that limit, skip it and return back to it after you have finished all of the easy questions.

One more reason why you should monitor your time during practice tests is to identify which questions are you finding difficult to answer. This is related to Tip no. 6. Once you have identified the skill needed to answer that question, you can work more on it in your SAT prep.

10. Memorize Math formulas

Memorizing Math formulas is one of the most important SAT Math tips. This will save you time, and lessen the pressure during the actual test. Since the geometry formulas are already given, it would be better if you will focus on memorizing formulas for algebra and trigonometry. Try applying them in your SAT Math practice to test if you have really mastered them.

11. Learn some mental math tricks 

In an article we have written here in Student-tutor, we have listed some of the most useful mental Math Tricks which will also help you increase your Math SAT score. Here is a rundown of some of the Math Tricks you will learn by reading our article:

  • Multiply Two-Digit Numbers by 11
  • Multiply Three-Digit Numbers by 11
  • Squaring
  • Multiply a Big Number by 5
  • Multiply a Big Number by 9
  • Multiplying in Parts
  • Subtract by Adding
  • Add 1 to Doubles
  • Multiply Numbers That End With Zero
  • Subtracting From 1000
  • Flipping Percentages

Conclusion

Now that you know what to expect, the math section shouldn’t feel as daunting to defeat. By implementing these 11 SAT Math tips (and of course, the process of elimination), you are on your way to SAT success! But before you go off and ace your SATs, let’s do a quick recap of everything we talked about today.

When taking the SAT Math Section, you should be sure to…

  • Divide and conquer,
  • Plug it in,
  • Test the answer choices,
  • Estimate,
  • Learn the beautiful language of math!
  •  Find out your weakness and work on them
  • Work on your Math content gaps
  • Choose SAT practice resources wisely
  • Monitor your time during practice tests
  • Memorize Math formulas
  • Learn some mental math tricks 

You will increase your math SAT score immediately once you apply these tips in your SAT Math practice.

If you are looking for other useful tips about SAT prep, view these articles:

Got any other good SAT Math tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!

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mohammad naseem
mohammad naseem
4 years ago

well done

i like these techniques

Laura Petersen
Laura Petersen
4 years ago

Thank you very much, Mohammad! So glad you found it positive. Do you have any other techniques you have tried that work great?

Isaac
Isaac
4 years ago

Hi Todd! I was just wondering if you had a guide or some tips for graphs and functions on the SAT? These are the two areas on the math section where I struggle the most. Thanks for your help!

Molly Taylor
Molly Taylor
5 years ago

I took an SAT prep class at a local state university, and we were told not to use the number 2 for “plug it in” because there’s too many special exceptions with it (2+2=2*2=2^2). Other than that, I found this site very helpful – I’ll be revisiting a lot before I take the test this December!

richardsd@stu.mhs-pa.org
5 years ago

Well i wanted to know if there are any other ways to study for the SAT. I want to know if everything we learned is going to be on the SAT. And is there a formula we can act on to get a higher score on the SAT.

Ahmir Manning
Ahmir Manning
5 years ago

This is a lot of things that I did when I took the SATs last year. The easiest part for me was narrowing down my answer selection, which was elimination. I did notice too that they had the easier questions at the beginning but I went through them the fastest and used most of my time on the harder questions. I will remember to use most of my time on the medium level questions the next time I take the test.

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