The SAT Math Test: Overview & How to Prepare

Sat math test overview
May 6, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/6/24

Learn about the key aspects of the SAT Math test and discover valuable preparation strategies to boost your performance in this comprehensive guide. 

The SAT math test is one of the three parts of the SAT. For many students, the SAT math section can be a source of anxiety and uncertainty. This article will unpack everything you need to know about the math section of the SAT, from the types of questions to expect to the topics the test covers. 

Whether aiming for a top score or simply looking to improve your math skills, this article is your go-to resource for mastering the SAT Math section and boosting your performance. Let us get into it!

SAT Math Sections

The SAT Math exam is divided into the calculator and no calculator sections. Here is a table consisting of how many questions and how much time is allowed for each:

No-Calculator Portion Calculator Portion
Time allotted 35 minutes 35 minutes
Total questions 15 30
Multiple-choice questions 15 30

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the format of each type of question and how to answer them. 

What is On the SAT Math Test?

Questions on the Math Test consist of four main categories: 

  • Algebra
  • Advanced Math
  • Problem-Solving and Data Analysis
  • Geometry and Trigonometry

Here is a table with the contents and number of questions for each category.

Type of Math Number of Questions
Algebra 13-15
Advanced Math 13-15
Problem-Solving and Data Analysis 5-7
Geometry and Trigonometry 5-7

Here is a more detailed breakdown for each of the four categories.


This category is all about high-school level linear algebra, including the properties of algebra and algebraic functions, systems, and operations. To do well in this category, students must be good at the following:

  • Create, interpret, and algebraically a system of linear expressions or equations in one or two variable(s). 
  • Create, interpret, and algebraically systems of linear inequalities in one or two variable(s).
  • Create, interpret, and algebraically systems of two linear equations in two variables.
  • Make a linear function that models a linear relationship between two quantities.
  • Interpret the variables and constants in expressions for linear functions. 
  • Understand connections between algebraic and graphical representations.

In essence, this section focuses on mastering linear algebraic equations and systems. You will learn much of it during high school, so use your curriculum to practice and improve! 

Problem-Solving and Data Analysis

This category of questions is about comprehending data and being able to apply mathematical knowledge in real-life scenarios.

  • Use ratios, rates, proportional relationships, and scale drawings to solve single- and multistep problems.  
  • Solve single and multi step problems involving percentages, measurement quantities, units, and unit conversion.  
  • Use scatterplot, linear, quadratic, or exponential models to describe how the variables are related.
  • Use the relationship between two variables to investigate key features of the graph. 
  • Understand linear growth and exponential growth and compare the differences.  
  • Use two-way tables to summarize categorical data and relative frequencies and calculate conditional probability. 
  • Analyze and make inferences about population parameters based on given data.  
  • Use statistics to investigate measures of data shape, center, and spread. 
  • Evaluate reports to make inferences, justify conclusions, and determine the appropriateness of data collection methods. The reports may consist of tables, graphs, or text summaries. 

You must be quantitatively literate to do well in this type of question. This means understanding, interpreting, and evaluating numerical information and using learned mathematical concepts to make decisions and communicate effectively through the given data. 

Advanced Math

This category focuses on more complex and advanced mathematics subject areas than the average high school math curriculum. It requires more familiarity with mathematical disciplines such as precalculus and statistics. Doing well in this section requires proficiency in the following:

  • Create a quadratic or exponential function or equation that models a situation. 
  • Create equivalent expressions involving rational exponents and radicals, which includes simplifying or rewriting in other forms. 
  • Create an equivalent form of an algebraic expression by using structure and fluency with operations. 
  • Solve a quadratic equation with rational coefficients through manipulation and form change.
  • Solve operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and simplification) of polynomial expressions.
  • Solve an equation in one variable that contains radicals or contains the variable in the denominator of a fraction.  
  • Solve a system of one linear equation and one quadratic equation.   
  • Interpret parts of nonlinear expressions in relation to their responsive context.
  • Understand the relationship between zeros and factors of polynomials and sketch graphs based on it.
  • Understand a nonlinear relationship between two variables with connections between their algebraic and graphical representations.  
  • Use function notation, and interpret statements using function notation.  
  • Use structure to isolate or identify a quantity of interest in an expression or isolate a quantity of interest in an equation.  

In essence, this section of questions requires mastering understanding and manipulating complex equations, functions, and other mathematical concepts. The subject areas covered in this category may be taught in upper-year mathematics, so stay attentive. 

Geometry and Trigonometry

This category is  a collection of both geometry and trigonometry. It will test the following:

  • Area and volume formulas
  • Lines, angles, and triangles
  • Right triangles and trigonometry
  • Circles

This section is new for the new format of the SAT. The reason this section was included is because it aims to assess students problem-solving skills. 

How to Prepare for the SAT Math Section

Preparing for the SAT is a time-consuming and laborious task, and that is especially the case for the math section. Now that you know what is on the math test, let’s  look at some tips to help you prepare! 

Familiarize Yourself 

Review the topics covered in the math section, as we have listed above. Algebra, geometry, data analysis, and problem-solving are all hot topics that you must understand to do well in the math test.

Ensure you also become familiar with the different question types you'll encounter, including multiple-choice and grid-in questions. Get used to answering each question type, and try to have your strategies and techniques specific for each one. 

For better effects, try to pick up effective test-taking strategies, such as managing time, eliminating answer choices, and making educated guesses when needed. These strategies can help you navigate through the exam efficiently.

Practice Makes Perfect

Dedicate consistent time to practice SAT Math problems regularly. You can start with questions and topics you find  easier, then gradually work up to more challenging ones. Remember to focus on understanding concepts and problem-solving techniques rather than  memorizing formulas.

The SAT Math test has practice tests that you can take, so use them to your advantage! For better effect, regularly take full-length practice tests under timed conditions to simulate the actual test environment. This helps you gauge your progress, improve time management skills, and mentally prepare yourself.

Make sure you utilize reliable SAT Math study materials when you practice, such as official SAT practice tests, prep books, online resources, and reputable tutoring services. These resources provide practice questions, explanations, and sample problems that closely mirror the exam.

Reflect Upon Yourself

Using your practices to review and reinforce what you have learned makes preparation more effective. Continuously review concepts, formulas, and problem-solving techniques. Reinforce your learning by practicing regularly and seeking clarification whenever needed. 

Ensure you analyze your mistakes to know what parts you are doing wrong. Identify recurring patterns or areas of weakness that require additional attention. Make sure you understand the correct solutions and learn from your errors to avoid making similar mistakes.

Seek Help If Needed

You do not need to walk this journey alone! If you're struggling with certain topics or need extra guidance, consider seeking help from a tutor, joining a study group, or utilizing online resources that offer explanations and tutorials.

FAQs: SAT Math Test

If you still have questions about what is on the SAT math section, check out these frequently asked questions. 

1. How Long Is the SAT Math Section?

So, how long is the SAT math section? The SAT Math Test has a total allocated time of 70 minutes, composed of 44 questions and tasks to be completed. 

2. What Level of Math is on the SAT?

Most SAT questions cover mathematical topics, concepts, and skills taught in typical high school math courses. Some questions can be slightly more advanced than average high school math, as SAT is meant to measure college readiness.

Thus, it is safe to say that SAT is on the level of upper-year high school mathematics.

3. Is the SAT Math Test Hard?

Much like any other subject, this  depends on how well a student is prepared in mathematics. However, if you are doing very well in mathematics, and the content is easy with few topics that trouble you, you should be good to go for the SAT math test.

Final Thoughts

And that concludes everything you need to know for the SAT math test. Remember, while the SAT is undoubtedly an important examination for college admission, just like any test, it is very important to stay confident and positive. Believe in your abilities and maintain a positive mindset throughout your preparation. 

Confidence and a calm approach on test day can significantly impact your performance. Therefore, we hope your journey of SAT Math preparation can be fun and ambitious. Don’t be afraid to put your best foot forward!

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