Introduction to SAT Math
The Math section of the SAT is designed to assess your ability to reason
and think about high school level mathematical problems. Your SAT Math score
is based on your performance on 3 timed math sections:
- 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
Multiple choice questions require you to select the correct answers from
among five answer choices, and the ‘grid in’ questions require
you to calculate the correct answer and enter it into the answer sheet.
Breakdown of the Math Topics Covered on the SAT with Sample Questions
Each SAT Math section includes questions drawn from four main topic areas,
which are discussed below:
- Number and Operations
- Algebra and Functions
- Geometry and Measurement
- Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability
1. Number and Operations Concepts
Mathematical concepts you need to know for these types of questions include:
- Basic properties of numbers and their terminology (e.g. negative numbers,
prime numbers, factors, integers, sets, sequences)
- Squares, square roots, and exponents
- Order of Operations
- Fractions and decimals
- Ratios and Proportions
- Arithmetic Word Problems
Number and Operations Sample Questions
Here are some examples of sample questions from this topic area that you might
see in SAT Math sections:
- If the average of 45,70, 80, and a number x is 55, what is the value of
- If 25% of x is 80, what is 10% of x?
- The ratio of 1.4 to 2 is equal to which of the following ratios?
2. Algebra and Functions Concepts
To answer SAT Math questions on Algebra and Functions you need to be familiar
with the following topics and skills:
- Simplifying algebraic expressions
- Operations on Algebraic expressions (including factoring of quadratic
- Equations and inequalities involving roots, exponents, and absolute values
- Solving systems of equations and inequalities
- Direct and inverse variation
- Algebraic word problems
- Functions (their domain, range, translations of graphs, functions using
- Equations of lines (slope, intercept)
Algebra and Functions Sample Questions
Algebra and function questions that are representative of what you might see
on SAT Math sections are below:
- If x and y are inversely proportional and x = 10 when y = 5, what is y
when x is 30?
- If 22x = 50x-12, what is the value of x?
E) it cannot be determined from the information given
- If x•y = 2x - 3y, and 1•2 = 2•z, what is the value of
C) 2 2/3
D) 3 2/3
3. Geometry and Measurement Concepts
SAT Math questions in this topic area will require you to know about:
- The properties of parallel and perpendicular lines
- Coordinate Geometry (slopes, distance between points, midpoints of lines)
- Triangles (area, angles, properties of equilateral, isosceles, right and
special triangles, the congruency and similarity of triangles, Pythagorean
- Quadrilaterals and other polygons (including area, interior and exterior
- Circles (area, circumference)
- Solid geometry (volume and surface area of solids)
- Transformations (translations, rotations, reflections)
Geometry and Measurement Sample Questions
Below are sample questions on Geometry and Measurement that you might see
in SAT Math sections:
- A triangle has two angles that are equal. If the length of two of the sides
of the triangle are 40 and 20, what is the least possible value for the perimeter
of the triangle?
- Three line segments meet at a point to form three angles. One angle is
equal to 2x?, the second angle is equal to 3x?, the fourth is equal to 4x?.
What is the value of x?
- In the xy-coordinate place, the distance between A(7,14) and B(x,2) is
13. What is one possible value of x?
4. Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability Concepts
The topics you need to know to master questions on this section are:
- Data interpretation (reading tables and line, bar, and other graphs)
- Descriptive statistics (mean, median, mode, weighted average)
- Probability (of one event or two or more independent or dependent events)
- Geometric Probability (probably that a random point chosen will fall within
a particular geometric figure)
Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability Sample Questions
Below are example SAT Math questions on this topic area:
- In the following figure, the circle has a radius of 9 and the small square
has sides of length 4. If a point is chosen at random from the large circle,
what is the probability that the point chosen will fall in the small circle?
- According to the graph below, between what two consecutive months was
there the greatest change in auto sales?
- The complete cycle of a fly’s life is 80 days. It spends 10 days
as an egg, 40 days in larval form, and lives as a mature adult for 30 days.
At a randomly chosen time, what is the probability that a given fly will NOT
be in its adult form?
Study Strategies for SAT Math
- Get familiar with the SAT Math section instructions
Make sure you know how to correctly enter answers into the answer sheet for
the grid-in questions. Don’t waste time on test day figuring out how
to enter fractions and decimals into the grid, know this stuff in advance.
Also be aware of the formulas that are available at the beginning of the test
(e.g. the formula for the volume of a cylinder or circumference of a circle),
although you are never required to memorize these formulas, your work will
go much quicker during the test if you do not have to refer to this information,
so take the time to memorize it now. It will always be there if you need to
refer to it on the test, but try not to rely on it.
- Practice taking timed math sections
One of the things that makes the SAT Math section challenging is the time
limit. The College Board offers an SAT preparation book with real practice
tests designed by the test-maker and these are the best bet for getting an
idea of the pace you need to be going at to get to every question. Remember
that more difficult questions are not worth more points, so if a question
seems difficult on first reading, skip it, move on to easier questions, and
come back to try and make an educated guess if you have time left over.
- Check your work
When taking practice tests, make sure to go through your answers carefully
and note what questions you got wrong and why. Keep track of what types of
questions you are missing consistently (e.g. algebra, geometry, etc.) and
then do a focused review of material in that area, using the practice drills
found in SAT prep books.
- Try questions from many different sources
Although the practice tests from the College Board are going to be the most
representative of what real SAT questions will look like, if you try the math
exercises from many different SAT prep books you will build up your general
skill level and be more prepared for new question types you haven’t