**Test-Taking Strategies to Maximize Your Score for the SAT Math Section**

The SAT is an exam where using good test-taking strategies can boost your score significantly. Here are the main strategies that we recommend you use.

Triage means to assign a priority order to a project in a way that will most likely achieve success. Since each problem is worth the same amount and there are no penalties for wrong answers, the only factor that will determine your score is the number of problems you get correct. Therefore, taking lots of time to get an answer for a difficult problem when you could have spent that time answering a few easier problems is counterproductive.

Here is the approach we suggest to maximize your correct answer choices in the given time:

Since there is only one correct choice for each problem, if you find yourself with problems you don't know how to answer, you can try to eliminate choices. There are four answer choices for the multiple choice questions, so if you are able to eliminate three choices, the choice you did not eliminate will be the answer (if your reasoning was correct).

If you can't eliminate three choices, you'll just have to guess between the remaining choices. This should be the last thing you do on the test. Although it's more difficult to guess a grid-in problem correctly compared to a multiple choice problem, make sure to at least put some guess down.

A common mistake on the SAT is to not answer the specific question being asked. Let’s use the problem below as an example to see how this might happen:

Question:

In solving this problem, you might combine the left sides and the right sides of the equations, making the y's cancel out, and end up with 3x = 9. Therefore, x = 3.

In a rush, it would be easy to see how you might notice a “3” in the answer choices and bubble that in. However, that is not answering

Every time you get an answer, it would be a good idea to take a little bit of time to make sure that your answer matches exactly what was being asked before moving on.

One thing that might be helpful to do is to underline the part of the problem that is stating what you need to find. In the problem above, you could underline the portion that says, “value of x + y,” since that is what you need to solve for:

Underlining the part you need to find accomplishes two things. First, it emphasizes what you need to find before you start the problem. Second, it makes it easier to go back to the text of the problem to see what was asked so that you don’t need to reread the whole question to find it.

The calculator can be a helpful tool for saving time and improving accuracy on

You don’t want to be fumbling around with the keys and trying to find certain functions during the test, so make sure to practice with the calculator and always use the same calculator to become familiar with it. This will reduce any unwanted surprises during the test in terms of using the calculator to help you find answers.

Here are a few more specific calculator tips:

Find out more about the CollegeBoard Calculator Policy by clicking here.

Getting nervous or anxious during the test will just make it harder for you to focus on problem solving. Even if you find there are problems you have no idea how to solve, just stick to the triage strategy and know that you can always come back to difficult problems later.

And remember, the SAT is not scored like a regular math test. In fact, the students who score in the 50th percentile (the middle score) typically get just less than half of the problems correct! If you get only half the problems correct on a regular math test, you would probably have failed the test. But that kind of performance may put you right about in the middle on the SAT test-takers.

Also, the difficulty of each test slightly varies. The SAT is designed so that you will get a higher score by answering a certain number of questions correct on a more difficult test than answering the same number correct on an easier test. Even if the test might seem really difficult, there is a good chance you will be surprised in finding out that you did better than you thought you might have when you get your score.

And don’t forget that you have a lot of control over what score you get by your actions before and during the test. By using the test-taking strategies we outlined here and by preparing in advance with effective practice strategies, you will give yourself a really good chance of doing excellently on the SAT Math Section.

**1. Triaging the Test**Triage means to assign a priority order to a project in a way that will most likely achieve success. Since each problem is worth the same amount and there are no penalties for wrong answers, the only factor that will determine your score is the number of problems you get correct. Therefore, taking lots of time to get an answer for a difficult problem when you could have spent that time answering a few easier problems is counterproductive.

Here is the approach we suggest to maximize your correct answer choices in the given time:

- First, work through all the easy problems you can do quickly and skip questions that are hard or time-consuming. As a rule of thumb, if a problem takes you more than a minute to work through, skip it and come back to it later. Make sure to circle or somehow mark problems that you skip so you know which ones you still have left to complete.
- Second, work through questions that are doable but time-consuming.
- Third, work through the hard questions.

**2. Eliminate Choices and Guess**Since there is only one correct choice for each problem, if you find yourself with problems you don't know how to answer, you can try to eliminate choices. There are four answer choices for the multiple choice questions, so if you are able to eliminate three choices, the choice you did not eliminate will be the answer (if your reasoning was correct).

If you can't eliminate three choices, you'll just have to guess between the remaining choices. This should be the last thing you do on the test. Although it's more difficult to guess a grid-in problem correctly compared to a multiple choice problem, make sure to at least put some guess down.

**3. Answer***THE*Question and Double Check the AnswerA common mistake on the SAT is to not answer the specific question being asked. Let’s use the problem below as an example to see how this might happen:

Question:

**2x – 3y = –9****x + 3y = 18****If (x, y) is a solution to the system of equations****above, what is the value of x + y ?****A) 2****B) 3****C) 5****D) 8**In solving this problem, you might combine the left sides and the right sides of the equations, making the y's cancel out, and end up with 3x = 9. Therefore, x = 3.

In a rush, it would be easy to see how you might notice a “3” in the answer choices and bubble that in. However, that is not answering

*THE*question being asked. After solving for y, it turns out that the solution to the linear equations is the point (3, 5), so x + y would be equal to 8.Every time you get an answer, it would be a good idea to take a little bit of time to make sure that your answer matches exactly what was being asked before moving on.

One thing that might be helpful to do is to underline the part of the problem that is stating what you need to find. In the problem above, you could underline the portion that says, “value of x + y,” since that is what you need to solve for:

**If (x, y) is a solution to the system of equations above, what is the**__value of x + y__?Underlining the part you need to find accomplishes two things. First, it emphasizes what you need to find before you start the problem. Second, it makes it easier to go back to the text of the problem to see what was asked so that you don’t need to reread the whole question to find it.

**4. Use the Calculator as a Supplemental Tool**The calculator can be a helpful tool for saving time and improving accuracy on

*some problems*, but make sure not to over use it. Generally speaking, it will help you save time on calculations for combinations of the four basic functions, such as (532 – 116)/4 + (23*12)/6. It will also help quicken complicated 4-function calculations, such as 2734*96. There may be a few other situations where the calculator will be faster and more accurate than hand calculations.You don’t want to be fumbling around with the keys and trying to find certain functions during the test, so make sure to practice with the calculator and always use the same calculator to become familiar with it. This will reduce any unwanted surprises during the test in terms of using the calculator to help you find answers.

Here are a few more specific calculator tips:

- You shouldn’t round values involving decimals until the very end.
- Make sure to check whether it is in degree or radian mode, and know how to switch between the two.
- It’s easy to press the wrong button on the calculator, so spend a few seconds to make sure all values and decimals were typed in correctly.
- Know how to convert between decimals and fractions if your calculator includes that function.
- Use parentheses when in doubt to specify the order of operations. For example, if you need to square the value -1 but type -1^2, the calculator will probably evaluate it as the negative of one squared, and output -1. By using a parenthesis and typing (-1)^2, it will calculate negative one times negative one, which is what you wanted.
- Bring extra batteries to the test in case yours run out.
- Check the day before the test to make sure the batteries are fresh.

Find out more about the CollegeBoard Calculator Policy by clicking here.

**5. Stay Calm**Getting nervous or anxious during the test will just make it harder for you to focus on problem solving. Even if you find there are problems you have no idea how to solve, just stick to the triage strategy and know that you can always come back to difficult problems later.

And remember, the SAT is not scored like a regular math test. In fact, the students who score in the 50th percentile (the middle score) typically get just less than half of the problems correct! If you get only half the problems correct on a regular math test, you would probably have failed the test. But that kind of performance may put you right about in the middle on the SAT test-takers.

Also, the difficulty of each test slightly varies. The SAT is designed so that you will get a higher score by answering a certain number of questions correct on a more difficult test than answering the same number correct on an easier test. Even if the test might seem really difficult, there is a good chance you will be surprised in finding out that you did better than you thought you might have when you get your score.

And don’t forget that you have a lot of control over what score you get by your actions before and during the test. By using the test-taking strategies we outlined here and by preparing in advance with effective practice strategies, you will give yourself a really good chance of doing excellently on the SAT Math Section.