The math sections of the SAT breakdown in the following ways:
• One 25-minute section with 20 multiple choice questions
• One 25-minute section with 8 multiple choice, and 10 grid-in questions
• One 20-minute section with 16 multiple choice questions
Here are three rules to follow to set yourself up before you do any actual studying.
Rule 1: Time Management:
The SAT math sections are structured with the test-taker in mind. They start off with easy problems that get progressively more difficult from question to question. You should not spend too much time on the early questions as you will want the extra minutes for the harder problems at the end. That being said, you should not entirely skip the early questions either. Easy questions count for just as much as hard ones. So while you should be moving swiftly in the beginning, don’t rush or skip with the intention of returning later.
The next 2 strategies are things that every test taker should know (and they don’t require actually mastering algebra or geometry).
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Rule 2: Picking Numbers
The first strategy is to pick a number. Any number. OK, well not ANY number, but a number that is easy to work with and readily adaptable.
Question: An integer is multiplied by 2. This result is decreased by 1. Finally, that result is increased by 5. What is the final result, in terms of x?
Rather than writing out each equation and solving it, you can pick a number. For example, let’s pick 5. Now we can just plug that number into each equation and let the math do the work for us.
In the question we take an X (our 5) multiply by 2 to get us to 10. Subtract 1 = 9. Add 5 = 14.
Now we plug in our number to the answers.
a. 5+1=6 WRONG
b. 2(5+4) = 2(9) = 18 WRONG
c. 5-4=1 WRONG
d. 2(5)+4 = 10+4 = 14 CORRECT!
e. 5 WRONG
With minimal effort, we were able to solve a problem that had we done the “right” way by solving for 2 equations could have easily taken more time. Granted this is a simplified version, but the theory works even for more difficult questions.
When picking numbers, think about what the problem is looking for. If you are working with percentages, 100 is your best bet. But using small numbers is also the best way to simplify problems. 3, 5 and 10 are all good jumping off points. Try it out and see what works best for you.
Rule 3: Work Backwards
The second strategy is to work backwards. This involves simply plugging in the available answers into the problem.
Question: If (4x+3)-(2x+1)= 3(x-4)+(3x-10), what is x?
We could sit and solve for x by manipulating the equations. OR, we could plug in the numbers we already have.
If we plug in 4 – we get: (4(4)+3)-(2(4)+1)=3((4)-4)+(3(4)-10)
Which, when simplified becomes: (16+3)-(8+1)=3(0)+(12-10) ?19-9=0+12 or 10=12 which is clearly incorrect.
And we can do this for every number until we find the one that works ? 6.
If a question doesn’t make sense, don’t panic. We saw here that as long as you can add, subtract, multiply and divide (or can use a calculator to perform these functions), hard problems can melt away and reveal their answers to you.