The first step in preparing for the Mathematics section of the SAT is to become familiar with the structure of this part of the test. With that in mind, we explain here exactly what falls into SAT Math and what skills are needed for you to answer the questions. Come on?
SAT Math section format
The Mathematics section of SAT is actually two sections. They are the third and fourth sections of the exam, right after Reading and Writing & Language. The reason for her to be divided is that, first, you have 25 minutes, in which you will not be able to use a calculator. After a short break, you will move on to the 55-minute section. During this longer section, you will be allowed to use a calculator.
The two sections begin with multiple choice questions, each with four alternatives. Then, you will have to answer questions presenting your own result, better known as ” grid-ins “. In the calculator section, some of these grid-ins relate to each other, as part of a type of question called Extended Thinking.
Here is the breakdown of time, number of questions and types of questions in the Mathematics section of the SAT in its two variations:
|Section||Number of questions||Time|
|Without calculator||15 multiple choice, 5 grid-ins||25 minutes|
|With calculator||30 multiple choice, 8 grid-ins (including an Extended Thinking question).||55 minutes|
|Total||58 questions||80 minutes|
Although you can use the calculator only in the longest section, you will have access to the following reference information for Geometry in both sections:
Obviously, it would be better to memorize this information instead of wasting time going back to the test booklet to consult these formulas. In fact, this material is not as important in the Mathematics section of the SAT, as Geometry questions represent less than 10% of the questions.
That said, let’s see what the main topics covered in the section are.
Topics covered in the Mathematics section of the SAT
Although the Mathematics section of the SAT does not place much emphasis on Geometry issues, it focuses on Algebra, solving equations and interpreting data from tables and graphs. The College Board ( the organization responsible for the SAT) classifies the types of questions in three main categories: Heart of Algebra (Algebra Heart), Passport to Advanced Math (Passport to Advanced Mathematics) and Problem Solving and Data Analysis (Troubleshooting and Data Analysis – they apparently gave up on creative nomination when they reached this third category (rs).
These three areas represent about 90% of SAT Mathematics questions. The remaining 10% are called simply additional topics and mainly include Geometry, Basic Trigonometry and Complex Numbers.
Let’s take a look at each of these categories, examining the math topics and skills they test.
Heart of Algebra
The questions in the Mathematics section of the SAT in the Heart of Algebra category have to do with linear equations, inequalities, functions and graphs.
Below are the official category topics, defined by the College Board, followed by a summary of the types of assignments you will find in this section. Remember that you will have to be prepared to resolve these issues!
Solve linear equations and linear inequalities (in these expressions, x is a constant or the product of a constant)
Interpret linear functions
Linear problems of inequality and equation
Graphical representation of linear equations
Linear function problems
Systems of linear inequality problems
Solving systems of linear equations
Summary of tasks
Use multiple steps to simplify an expression or equation or solve a variable
Solve a variable within functions or systems of inequalities with two variables (usually x and y).
Analyze whether a given point is in a set of solutions or what value would make an expression unsolvable
Select a graph that shows an algebraic equation or, on the other hand, choose the equation that describes a graph
Indicate how a graph would be affected by a particular change in your equation
Passport to Advanced Mathematics
While “Heart of Algebra” questions are focused on linear equations, Passport to Advanced Math questions have to do with non-linear expressions or expressions in which a variable is raised to an exponent that is not zero or one. These questions will ask you to work with quadratic equations, exponential expressions and other types of problems.
Solve quadratic equations
Interpret non-linear expressions
Word problems with quadratic and exponential expressions
Radicals and rational exponents
Operations with rational expressions and polynomials
Polynomial factors and graphs
Graphs of non-linear equations
Linear and quadratic systems
Structure in expressions
Summary of tasks
Solve equations by factoring or using other methods to rewrite them otherwise
Add, subtract, multiply or divide two rational expressions or divide two polynomial expressions and simplify your results
Select a graph that corresponds to a non-linear equation or an equation that corresponds to a graph
Determine the equation of a curve from the description of a graph
Find out how a graph would change if your equation changed
Troubleshooting and Data Analysis
This third and final main category includes questions that ask you to work with rates, proportions, percentages and data from graphs and tables.
Reasons, rates and proportions
Key graphics features
Linear and exponential growth
Center, distribution and form of distributions
Data collection and conclusions
Summary of tasks
Solve multi-step problems to calculate proportion, rate, percentage, unit rate or density
Use a certain proportion, rate, percentage, unit rate or density to solve a multi-step problem
Select an equation that best fits a scatter plot
Use tables to summarize data, such as probabilities
Estimate populations based on sample data
Use statistics to determine the mean, median, mode, range and / or standard deviation
Evaluate tables, graphs or text summaries
Determine the accuracy of a data collection method