Happy Pi Day! I can think of no better way to celebrate this magical mathematical holiday than by talking math, specifically the most challenging aspects of one of the most challenging math tests any American student ever takes. Make no mistake: since its most recent revision, the SAT is more of a math test than it’s ever been.
If you’re looking for tips on tackling math on the SAT, you already know how much this exam differs from math tests in school. You may already be aware that the SAT tests math from basic arithmetic through advanced topics in algebra 2 and trigonometry. If you’re lucky, you’ve also learned that SAT math focuses heavily on problem solving, particularly through tricky word problems.
Still, real success on the SAT Math section requires much more in the way of content knowledge and strategic insight. To speed your progress, I asked a few test prep experts to share some of their most powerful SAT math tips:
My favorite test prep professional in Michigan, Brad Kelly of TestOwl Tutors, recommends that you estimate before you calculate.
“I’ve found that at least ballparking your expectations before you start punching numbers into the calculator can really help to avoid mistakes.”
Norbert Weinberg of The Starting Edge, expertly serving Hollywood and Beverly Hills, suggests that you KISS: keep it simple.
“Remember that answer choices ask for a value times pi or an approximation. Look at your answer choices and eliminate the least fit. Have a Happy Pi Day, especially kids like my granddaughter, whose birthday is Pi Day!”
Perfect Scorer Darren Hom, based in the Bay Area, asks, “Do you make careless errors on SAT Math?”
“Work on re-reading every problem after you’ve finished it. Make sure you’ve understood the assumptions correctly and solved for the right variable. When you’re finished, put a vertical line next to the question to mark it finished and move on.”
Ben Sexton of Sexton Test Prep, located in Wellesley, MA, astutely observes the importance of distinguishing between linear and exponential growth.
“Remember, in linear growth, the output (or y-variable) changes by a fixed AMOUNT per unit of time, while in exponential growth, the output variable changes by a fixed PERCENT per unit of time.
“With linear growth, it is important to remember that the slope represents the change in output variable per ONE UNIT CHANGE in the input variable. Slope must be given per unit change, and never represents a total change or a total amount. The word “doubles” is tricky: it represents exponential growth. If something doubles, it increases by 100%.”
Your experts at Chariot Learning agree with all of the above (how could we not?) and want to add a nod to the math topics that matter a lot more on the SAT than on the ACT: make sure you fully understand parabolas, polynomial remainder theorem, and compound interest before test day.
Just reading these tips won’t be enough to change your SAT Math score, but practicing each strategy and mastering each essential content area can lead to serious success. Good luck!