• Talal Ali Jan

How To Tackle The SAT Math Section!



Probably, the most dreaded part of SAT for students who either consider themselves perpetually unable to grasp Math or who have not taken up Math as a subject in A Levels and so are out of practice. Math at Tutoria is my favorite part of the day as this is the part where I can actually convey strategies that I have used for long and help previously clueless students achieve an 800 right before my eyes.


Working with the basics

As clichéd as it might sound, time has never mattered more anywhere than in this section. To give an overview, there are two parts of the Math section: the calculator one and the manual one. In the 55-minute section, you will have the full use of a calculator with 38 questions and 8 grid-ins (Math questions which do not contain options). For the 25-minute section, you will have to bid farewell to the calculator and manually solve 20 questions and 5 grid-ins. Now before you panic over the time constraint, I want to let you know the difficulty level of the paper set by examiners is O-levels or high school type. So this should remove any misconceptions in your mind that you won’t be familiar with the general concepts.


Getting familiar with the syllabus:

Recently, the syllabus of SAT’s Math changed a bit so according to the new syllabus, there are 3 major portions now:


1. Heart of Algebra which deals with equations, inequalities, absolute values etc.

2. Passport to advanced Math which is also rooted in the principles of algebra but it goes on to become more complex with emphasis on forming linear and quadratic equations.

3. Problem solving and data analysis which by its name gives way to the fact that here you would have to use numbers to analyze stats, graphs and various forms of data to come up with suitable answers.

4. Then there is fourth bit which deals with miscellaneous topics like trigonometry, absolute values, complex numbers, linear geometry.


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The strategic approach

I refer to SAT’s Math as a " layman's Math" solely because it doesn’t test you beyond your ability to apply different strategies in a limited time frame. When you begin your preparation, I emphasize on starting with a fresh mind, willing to let go of old school time consuming approaches and adapting to minimal steps to come up with the right answer. Some of my strategies that I teach at Tutoria enables you to do just that:


Replace variables with numbers: Plug in numbers where ever you find variables. It's a brilliant strategy which will save your life because naturally we are more prone to understanding numbers than variables. It is therefore essential to convert algebraic language to Arithmetic (numbers) wherever it is feasible to do so. Similarly, translate English expressions to Mathematical notations to help you come up with the right equations. A lot of times you can easily solve difficult questions by simply translating English expressions into Mathematical notations.


Plug-in answer choices: Play smart wherever you can and use the numbers in the answer choices. Put them back in the equation given in the question to work your way backwards to access what the right answer may be.


Always underline the Target Answers:It will save time and should be your highest priority after reading the questions.


Pay attention to units and variables: This is where a lot of stupid mistakes happen so be very careful with units and variables and underline what is being asked of you.


Practice does make one perfect:

I personally believe there is no such thing as a natural apt for SAT Math. You practice, you improve but wherever your practice falters, your natural way with numbers can only do so much. For your personal schedule, I would advise a strict one-hour session two times a day for a period of 2 months. Time yourself for each section and limit the use of calculator wherever you can. Each missed question should not be let go of with a shrug. Ask around, read strategies and understand how a question points to what kind of formula or method should be applied. Guesses should be avoided during practice sessions at all cost.

Unfortunately, the scarcity of material available for the new patterned Math makes things even more difficult for the students. To begin with, you will have to rely on the “Official SAT study guide” by Collegeboard, “The Princeton Review” and “The Khan Academy.” These are the best resources you can rely on. Although I do not recommend any one book because honestly, no single book comprehensively covers all the topic. That is the reason, at Tutoria, I provide my students with ample material that comes from various authentic sources which not only challenges the length but also the depth of their knowledge, preparing them for an easy 700+ score.

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