Today I would like to emphasize the best ways to use your time as efficiently as possible on the math sections of the SAT. Review this list once every couple of weeks to make sure that you retain the extremely useful tips given here.
(1) Make sure you are familiar with the test: Learn all of the directions long before taking the test, and make sure that you are familiar with the layout of the test. In particular, there are two math sections (as you know), each a different length, and there are two different types of questions – multiple choice and grid-ins. SAT math tests four major subject areas – Heart of Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis. Questions roughly increase in difficulty level throughout each “part” of each math section (I like to think of each math section as split into two parts, the first part consisting of the multiple choice questions, and the second part consisting of the grid in questions), and each question is worth the same amount of credit. There is no guessing penalty for getting questions wrong so you should not leave any answers blank. You can use a calculator on the SAT – I always recommend using a TI-84, or a graphing calculator that is comparable to this one. You may want to take a look at the following report: The Features You Should Learn How To Use On Your Graphing Calculator for the SAT
(2) Memorize all relevant math formulas: There is a short list of formulas that you should commit to memory as soon as you begin your SAT math preparation. For starters, memorize the formulas that are given to you on the SAT – no need to waste time looking these up when you can just commit them to memory in a very short time. Take a look here for more information: The Math Formulas You Should Memorize for the SAT
(3) Learn SAT specific strategies: You should be learning two to three strategies each week for a period of three to four months before taking your SAT.
(4) Practice SAT math problems ten to twenty minutes per day: Each day you should learn one new strategy, or quickly review one that you already know. Then choose one of the four subject areas to focus on. Spend half your study session trying new SAT math problems, and the second half redoing problems you have previously gotten wrong. It is very important that you are focusing on questions that are at and slightly above your current ability level.
For (3) and (4) you may want to use my “28 SAT Math Lessons” series. Each book in this series is targeted for students in a specific score range. Get the book for your score range and you will learn all the strategies you need to get to the next score level. In addition you will be provided with hundreds of practice problems all targeted specifically for you. Click on the pictures below for links to the books’ Amazon pages.
(5) Practice tests should be done in moderation: Taking practice tests is NOT the most effective way to improve your SAT math score. Some students prepare by doing practice test after practice test, but their score shows little to no improvement because they are violating the basic principles established in point (4) above. The purpose of practice tests is to make sure that you are implementing the strategies you have learned correctly under timed conditions. You should take at least four practice SATs before test day, about one per month. These tests should all be actual SATs or at least tests created by The College Board. Make sure that you time these tests correctly and you score them yourself .
(6) Break bad patterns: If your score is not improving as you would hope there is usually a simple explanation. If you find yourself making a lot of “careless errors,” then you need to ask yourself if you are dismissing these questions too quickly. If you are struggling with the last few questions at the end of each math section, then watch the video below. Are you redoing questions that you got wrong? Failing to do so will keep you from showing any major improvement. Make sure that you keep redoing the problems you get wrong until you can get them right on your own without messing up at all.
Best of luck,
p.s.: Here is a special offer on all of my SAT math prep books: SAT Math Prep Books Full Bundle