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What Is An SAT Specific Math Strategy?

Whenever I give SAT math prep advice, the first thing that I always tell my students is to learn as many SAT specific math strategies as possible. So naturally, some of my students will ask me exactly what an SAT specific math strategy is.

These strategies are methods to getting the answers to SAT math problems in ways that are different from the way you were taught in school. Some of these strategies will save time, some will save you from making careless errors, and some will get you the correct answer even when you do not understand the question.

SAT prep math strategy wheel

Many of these strategies are not even mathematically correct, but as long as they work there is no reason not to take advantage of them. I know that I may raise a few eyebrows with this statement, but on the SAT you only lose credit if you get the answer wrong – it does not matter if your work is correct.

Here I will give you one sample strategy.

Start with Choice (B) or (C)

In many problems you can get the answer simply by trying each of the answer choices until you find the one that works. Unless you have a specific reason not to, you should always start with choice (B) or (C) as your first guess.

The reason for this is simple. Answers are generally given in increasing or decreasing order. So very often if choice (B) or (C) fails you can eliminate two of the other choices as well.

As a simple example, consider the following problem:

If 23y = 64, then y =

     (A) 3
     (B) 2
     (C) 1
     (D) 0

Begin by looking at choice (C). We substitute 1 in for y on the left hand side of the given equation to get 23y = 23⋅1 = 23 = 2 ⋅2 ⋅ 2 = 8. This is too small. So we can eliminate choices (C) and (D).

We next try choice (B). We substitute 2 in for y on the left hand side of the given equation to get 23y = 23⋅2 = 26 = 2 ⋅2 ⋅ 2 ⋅ 2 ⋅ 2 ⋅ 2 = 64. This is correct so that the answer is choice (B).

In summary, if you really want to do well in SAT math it is absolutely critical that you learn as many SAT math strategies as possible. I teach my more advanced students 34 key strategies that I feel are particularly important.

The more of these techniques you have at your disposal the less likely you are to waste time, make careless errors, and get tricked during the test, and the more time you will have to check your answers. Each new strategy you learn will take you one step closer to a perfect 800 in SAT math.

You can find all of the strategies that you need to get you to the next score level in my “28 SAT Math Lessons” series. Each book in this series focuses on precisely the techniques, concepts, and types of problems that you need to improve. Click on the pictures below for more information about these books.




Strategy Videos

Important Note: The following videos were made for the old SAT, but the idea is essentially the same. Since multiple choice questions on the current version of the SAT have 4 choices instead of 5, in the first video it is now okay to start with choice (B) or (C).

Start with Choice (C)

When NOT to Start with Choice (C)


Best of luck,
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Dr. Steve
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p.s.: Here is a special offer on all of my SAT math prep books: SAT Math Prep Books Full Bundle


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