Breaking down the SAT math section

Preparing for the SAT math section is an important part of college prep. It is important for students to feel comfortable with the format of the math section and enter the test knowing what to expect.

The SAT math section is scored on a 200 to 800 point scale and accounts for one-third of the overall SAT score. Students are allowed 70 minutes to complete the math section and this time is broken down into one 20-minute section and two 25-minute sections.

The math section is made up of 54 questions. 44 of which are multiple choice and ten of which are grid-in questions. A grid-in question is another word for a student produced response question. The student must come up with the answer to the math problem and write their answer into a special grid.

The math section of the SAT covers basic arithmetic, geometry, and algebra I & II. It is recommended that students study functions, absolute value, sets, exponents, and radical equations, among other concepts. For many students, the SAT math section is likely to involve ideas from math courses that they took several years back in their education. For this reason, is important for students to re-familiarize themselves with these concepts throughout their SAT prep.

Trigonometry is not included in the test. Problems involving triangles can all be solved using knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem and special right triangles. Algebra II is not included on the PSAT, but will be on the SAT. SAT practice tests are the best way to ensure that students are prepared for these questions and familiar with the overall structure of the SAT math section.

While all math problems can be completed without a calculator, it is recommended that students bring an acceptable calculator with them to the SAT. It is often best to use a familiar calculator and to use the same one that they used during their SAT practice tests. It is advisable to put fresh batteries in the calculator before the test and be sure that the calculator is working. Students are not permitted to share calculators during the test.

Acceptable calculators for the SAT math section include graphing calculators and scientific calculators. A four-function calculator is permitted, but not recommended. Students may not use the calculator on a laptop, cell phone, electronic writing pad, or pocket organizer. Also prohibited are any calculators that make noise or have a QWERTY keyboard feature. Students will be asked to put away their calculators during the critical reading and writing sections of the SAT.

A strong SAT prep program is the surest way for students to enter the SAT math section as well-prepared as possible. Students should use the scrap paper provided and not attempt to use a calculator for every question. It is best to work quickly and efficiently in order to complete each section within the allotted time.

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