What is evaluated in the Mathematics section of the SAT?

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:

Topics covered in the Mathematics section of the SAT

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!

Official topics

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

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.

Official topics

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

Isolating quantities


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.

Official topics

Reasons, rates and proportions



Table data

Scatter plots

Key graphics features

Linear and exponential growth

Data inferences

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