14 SAT Math Tips & Tricks to Improve Your SAT Math Score

Calculator with math on paper
July 2, 2024
7 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Are you looking for tips and tricks to help you prepare for the Math portion of your SAT? We delve into different SAT Math Study Tips as well as Last-Minute SAT Math Tips to ensure your SAT success.

Eat. Study. Sleep. Study. Repeat.

When heading into the SAT, some people might have a perception that this is all it takes to tackle the test. There are two halves to the test, and one is devoted entirely to Math. As such, there are SAT Math Study Tips as well as SAT Reading Study Tips.

There are many things that any student can do to give themselves the best chance for success in their SAT exam. Preparing in advance can involve many steps, and it can be overwhelming to figure out what works best for you. Here are some SAT math tricks to prepare you for your SAT exam.

Overview of the SAT Math Section

Before diving into our expert tips on how to improve your SAT math score, let’s review what you can expect to see in this portion of the test. The SAT Math section asks questions on four math subject areas:

  • Number & operations
  • Algebra & functions
  • Geometry 
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probability. 

In the table below, we’ve broken down how many questions are in each section.

Type of Math Number of Questions
Heart of Algebra 19
Problem Solving and Data Analysis 17
Passport to Advanced Math 16
Additional Topics in Math 6

Source: College Board

The SAT math section is also divided into calculator and non-calculator portions. During the non-calculator portion, you will have 25 minutes to complete 20 questions, while the calculator portion allows for 55 minutes to complete 38 questions. 

Tips for Before the SAT Math Test

Preparing for the SAT Math test can be very different from preparing for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test. You ultimately need to switch your mindset between these two SAT sections because of how different the nature of the questions is between them. 

Still, there are some general tips for the SAT math section and things to know about SAT math that are important to know when you are preparing for your test.

1. Know What You Will Be Tested On

One of the best ways to be successful is by knowing what you will be getting yourself into so that you can prepare for it accordingly. If you know what is coming, you can prepare for it and be less intimidated when it arrives.

If you neglect to find out what you will be tested on in the SAT Math Test, you run the risk of studying for something that might not appear on the actual test. Conversely, you might also encounter a question that you didn’t get the chance to prepare for. 

Here are the 24 skills tested on the SAT Math Test:

Basic Algebra Advanced Algebra Problem Solving &
Data Analysis
Additional Topics
Linear Functions
Single Variable Equations
Systems of Linear Functions
Absolute Value
Manipulating Polynomials
Quadratic Equations
Dividing Polynomials
Exponential Functions
Solving Exponential Equations
Systems of Equations with Non-Linear Equations
Ratios & Proportions
Scatter Plots & Graphs
Categorical Data & Probabilities
Experimental Interpretation
Mean, Median, Mode & Standard Deviation
Complex Numbers
Coordinate Geometry
Non-Linear Functions
Lines & Slopes
Circles, Lines & Angles
Triangles & Polygons

You can use this table to highlight topics that you are less familiar with, allowing you to work on weak areas and bolster your skillset.

You can use this table to highlight topics that you are less familiar with, allowing you to work on weak areas and bolster your skillset.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

The measurement of any skill level in life is all about how much time and effort is put into working on the craft. Math is no different, and one of the best ways to hone your test-taking skills is to do practice tests. Here are some practice tests* offered by College Board:

Practice Test 1: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

Practice Test 3: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

Practice Test 5: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

Practice Test 6: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

Practice Test 7: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

Practice Test 8: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

Practice Test 9: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

Practice Test 10: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay

*Note: Practice Tests 2 and 4 were removed from the College Board site.

To simulate a real-time experience, it is recommended to take these tests within the same time limit that you will have in the actual SAT. It would also be best to follow the rules for the SAT calculator rules; use a calculator for the sections where calculators are permitted and avoid using one where you can’t. 

These tests are free to download, so you can start preparing right now. Additionally, you can also access our SAT practice exam! Our exam has 115+ questions with detailed answer explanations and is free to download!

3. Try to Teach Someone Else

One of the best SAT tips for the math section is to try teaching the material to someone else. Teaching is, after all, one of the best ways to learn. When you teach someone else about a certain topic, you have to ensure that you are confident and accurate. Otherwise, it will show in your teaching and in the student’s reception of you.

Teaching someone else also helps test-takers reinforce their knowledge about a topic, further solidifying their understanding. Using notes or demonstratives in your teaching method will go a long way in this process as well.

4. Manage Your Time

Whether it’s adopting a study plan, daily schedule, or an SAT prep routine, managing time is essential to acing the SAT Math exam

Ensure that you are realistic about your actions so that you can stay accountable for your goals. This includes putting your phone away during designated study hours, getting the right amount of sleep, and prioritizing your time through the changes that happen in daily living. Commitment is key when working on your craft, and balance is vital to unlocking your full potential.

5. Work on Your Weakest Points

When going through the practice tests and checking off the list of skills to cover in your SAT Math prep, you may find that you feel stronger at certain topics than others. 

Spend more time reviewing your weakest points - it is great that you feel confident in certain areas because that means that you will likely be ready for them come test time. However,  this confidence might encourage you to stay on those topics because they feel comfortable. 

Avoid this comfort zone. Instead, use it as a comparable measurement of how much you are understanding the other topics.

6. Seek A Tutor

Preparing for your SAT exam can be a daunting task, and doing it alone can be intimidating. Of all the expert tips provided here, this one can make one of the biggest differences in your SAT experience. Students looking to improve SAT math scores often find that seeking guidance and working with a tutor or a study group can be a game-changer.

Mentors are essential parts of a successful journey in all walks of life, and finding a competent tutor to help you understand all the math concepts you need for your SAT is no different. Quad Education Group provides the best tutors to prepare you for all your SAT needs and can even share more nuanced SAT math tricks specific to you.

7. Equip Yourself with Equations

Knowing your formulas is the basis of SAT Math prep work, and this will show when test time comes. Formulas are your tools to solve equations the way music notes are the tools for musicians to make music; it is imperative you take the time to learn them and prioritize the most useful and important formulas. 

Some important equations include:

Your list of important mathematical equations can differ depending on what you want to focus on. You have the opportunity to get creative with your list, so have fun with it!

8. Prepare Your Materials In Advance

Avoid scrambling on the day of the test for all of the items you will need and/or want to bring with you. Whether it’s your eraser, calculator, a healthy snack, or student/government ID, make sure to prepare all of your belongings the night before taking your SAT so that you don’t go into it with any added stress.

But keep in mind that some common items won’t be necessary with the new SAT digital format. So, check the requirements before packing your bag.

9. Don’t Leave Anything to the Last Minute

One of the best SAT math tips is simply to prepare as much as you can in advance. There is no SAT shortcut that you can buy or find that can substitute the work that needs to be done in order to be successful in your test.

SAT Math Tips for the Test Day

The SAT is nearing, and it is almost time for you to take the exam. Time is of the essence, and your preparation has brought you to where you are now. Here are some last-minute SAT math tips and tricks to consider as you reign in on your studying.

1. Use the Answers

The SAT is made up of multiple choice questions, so it can be advantageous to see a few options and pick which answers make the most sense for a given question if possible to save time. 

Example: If y = x3 + 2x + 5 and z = x2 + 7x + 1, what is 2y + z in terms of x?

Sometimes, questions like this can help you find the answer without fully solving it. Instead, solving for the first and last terms of the equation for a question similar to the example above can help you determine whether it is appropriate for you to cancel out any of the multiple-choice answers available. 

This is one of the SAT math shortcuts that can help save you some time on the test.

2. Label Units of Measurement

This rudimentary trick can be easily lost when time constraints take away your focus. Labeling the proportions of the question can help you stay organized and focused in your test-taking. Doing this will help you easily prevent yourself from getting lost in the equation.

3. Skip the Question

This is one of the more unorthodox SAT math tips that can be sparingly used when test-taking, but it can be helpful in managing your time. 

Spending a lot of time on a question that you understand is warranted, but doing the same on a question that you are drawing blanks on can set you back; it becomes too time-consuming. Skipping the question also allows you to regroup and gain your focus back after having tunnel vision on the previous roadblock.

Use this tip sparingly, though. If you keep skipping questions and jumping across different topics or sections of the SAT, you may jumble your thinking and even risk mistakenly missing a question. Be sure to review the whole exam so that you answer all questions if you decide to skip one.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Don’t forget to put yourself first! On test day, make sure to eat breakfast, drink water, and get plenty of rest the night before. Self-care is often ignored when it comes to exam prep, but studies have shown that being well-rested and fed before a test can significantly improve your overall mood and performance. 

5. Trust Your Gut

Your first answer is usually the right one. Avoid spending time over-analyzing or second-guessing yourself. Keep calm, take deep breaths, and move forward to the next question. You’ve got this!

Female student solving math problems

FAQs: SAT Math Section

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the SAT math section. 

1. How can I improve my SAT Math fast?

When it comes to studying for SAT math, you should start early and take multiple practice tests. If you’re starting your test prep last minute, try explaining math concepts to a friend or even just writing them down. If you have a firm grasp of the concept, you should be able to complete the necessary equations on test day.

2. How can I manage my time during the SAT Math section?

The best way to manage your time while taking the SAT is to answer the easy questions first, then go back and work on the harder and/or longer questions. One of the best SAT math tricks is to make sure not to leave any questions unanswered! It’s also a good idea to time yourself while taking practice tests to make sure you’re ready for test day. 

3. What is in the SAT Math section?

The SAT math section includes questions on four major areas in math: Algebra, Number & Operations, Statistics & Probability, and Geometry. 

4. How can I prepare for the SAT Math?

The best way to prepare for the SAT math section is to take multiple timed practice tests and have a teacher or experienced tutor review your responses. 

Final Thoughts

The SAT Math section can truly be a fun opportunity for test-taking. It can be fun not only because it is laid out in a multiple-choice format but also because math is a craft that can be mastered the same way a musical instrument or a basketball can be mastered. Adhering to these fundamental SAT math tips and tricks will go a long way in your SAT experience.

The most important factor that can make or break your success with the SAT Math section is giving yourself enough time and space to prepare sufficiently for the exam. You can do anything you put your mind to, and that includes this SAT - the ball is now in your court.

If there is one final last-minute SAT Math study tip that could be shared, it is to make sure to have fun! Your best efforts are enough, and your journey awaits.

Take on 5 free practice SAT questions here

Take on 5 free practice SAT questions here

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