Strategically Study for the SAT Math Section
Studying for the SAT can be a daunting task. In order to do your best on the test, you should make a specific study plan to maximize your score on the SAT. Use these strategic studying tips to help create a study plan that works for you!
The SAT is a predictable test. The test- makers (College Board) frequently reuse concepts on their test, making it reasonable to study for it in a strategic manner. For example, you can expect to see at least 2 and possibly more problems related to integers on the test. Understanding what integers are and the various ways that College Board can test this concept will prepare you for performing at your best. Take a look at our Free SAT Math Frequency Analysis Resource to help you compartmentalize your studying.
Here’s how you should plan and study for the SAT.
- Take a practice test. We suggest using the Official SAT Study Guide. This is created by College Board and contains real, released SAT tests. When you take your first practice test, you should simulate real SAT conditions- time yourself and only take breaks when allowed by the test. This helps prepare you for the real thing, and it gives you an idea of your starting point- or what you could have expected to make on the SAT if you took the real test that day.
- Categorize each question type. Using the SAT Math Frequency Guide, label each question in the math section of the SAT (You can also do the same thing for the Verbal section). If a problem is related to triangles, write: “Basic Triangles” below the problem. Perform this task for every single problem, so that when you’re done you have placed each question type into a specific category.
- Determine which question types you got wrong. Create a table listing all question categories and determine how many questions you got wrong from each category. Is there a pattern? If so, you know where to start your studying! If there is no pattern, this could suggest that you need to work on general math skills to improve your performance.
- Determine which question levels you got wrong. College Board categorizes each test as Easy, Medium or Hard (or a range of 1 [easy] to 5 [hard] in earlier tests). Determine whether you were more likely to get an easy, medium, or hard question wrong. If you see that you only got the later (harder) questions wrong, you’re on the right track- you can begin focusing on studying the more difficult question types. If you see that there is no pattern to what difficulty level you got wrong, then you need to begin practicing strategic test taking strategies. You can start with some simple tips here (link to SAT test strategies blog post). Since all test questions are worth the same number of points, you need to make sure you study for and then answer correctly all the easier question types before moving on the more difficult concepts and problems.
- Solve every problem you got wrong. Re- work each problem you got wrong until you understand in detail why you got it wrong and how you can solve the problem to find the correct answer. It is critical you understand the underlying concepts to the problem. If you struggle with this, you could benefit from the help of a teacher or tutor.
- Practice makes perfect. After you have thoroughly understood each question type from the first practice test, repeat these steps again. Move onto the second test: time yourself, categorize the incorrect answers, and work out each problem until you thoroughly understand it. By doing this, you can also track your progress, because each time you take a practice test, you are simulating real testing conditions, giving you a better idea of how you will perform on the real test.
The best way to maximize your score on the SAT is to give yourself plenty of time to study. We suggest an absolute minimum time of 3 months, but some students study for as much as 6 months to 1 year. Strategic studying, proper planning and practice, and reflection will help you get the best score possible. Good luck!
Article written by Shayna L. Pond and Action Potential Learning
Action Potential Learning provides private tutoring in math and science as well as standardized test prep and science and math camps. As math and science specialists, our tutors know and understand difficult math and science concepts and can help you improve your grades and perform on standardized tests.