Back to posts

SAT Math Problems

College Admissions

The SAT was completely re-designed in March 2016; therefore it’s hard to find up-to-date information on math problems. That’s why I’ve gathered all the vital information you’re going to need to help you study and prepare yourself for the math problems on the SAT. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect on the new math section of the SAT.

What to Expect from the New SAT Math Problems

When you take on the new SAT problems, you’ll be facing two sections total: one where you can use a calculator and one where you can’t. The good news is that the new SAT is formatted so you deal with the mental math problems first and then you move on to the math problems where you can use a calculator. Let’s take a few moments to break down the exact skills you’ll need to be successful in each of these sections.

The Skills You Need for the Calculator-Free Math Problems

So many of the students I work with get anxious when it comes to the mental math section. But I want to assure you that you won’t be asked to solve something impossible. These are problems you will be able to solve without a calculator.

  •    Basic math like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  •    Using the FOIL method to simplify equations or phrases
  •    Solving two equations
  •    Knowing or being able to solve square roots through multiplication
  •    Familiarity with powers and how to reconfigure them.

That’s all you’ll need to know for the math problems where you can’t use a calculator. Make sure that you practice this section without a calculator, brush up on your basic math skills, and be sure to have square roots memorized so you don’t waste time multiplying them out.

Don’t Sweat the Geometry

Prior to the SAT remodeling, geometry made up roughly 30% of the math problems you would have to deal with. But with the redesign of the SAT, you'll only be dealing with a fraction of that. Now geometry questions make up less than 10% of the test. The news gets even better. You’ll be given a reference section for that shows some of the formulas needed to solve the limited number of geometry questions on the SAT.

Below are the formulas you’ll be given in the SAT test.

(Link for above image)

Even though you’re going to be provided with formulas to help you out, there are some you should be familiar with that aren’t included in the reference table. I’ve compiled a list of these additional formulas you’ll need to know for this portion of the SAT.

Name Equation or Note
Area of an Arc (πr2)(degree measure center of arc/360)
Average (Mean) sum of terms/number of different terms
Average Speed total distance/total time
Circumference of a Circle C=2πr OR C=πd
Circumference of an Arc (2πr)(degree measure center of arc/360)
Distance Formula √[(x2−x1)2+(y2−y1)2]
Equation of a Line y = mx + b
Law (Circle) number of degrees in a circle is 360
Law (Radians) number of radians in a circle is 2π
Law (Triangle) number of degrees in a triangle is 180
Midpoint Formula (x1+x2), (y1+y2) 2             2
Percentage (n is x percent of) (n100)/x
Percentage (n of m) (n100)/m
Percentage (x percent) n(x/100)
Probability number of desired outcomes/total possible outcomes
Slope Formula (y2-y1) (x2-x1)
Slope of a line rise (vertical change) run (horizontal change)

Make Peace with Algebra

Bad news for those of us who don’t like letters in our math problems; the new SAT will now dedicate over half of its content to algebra. If this is a type of math you really struggle with, I definitely recommend touching base with one of our tutors to brush up on the following concepts to really succeed on this portion of the SAT:

  •    Create, analyze, graph, and solve exponential equations, non-linear equations, and quadratic equations
  •    Create linear equations or systems of equations to solve story-based problems
  •    Solve linear equations
  •    Solve systems of equations

When you feel like you have a good handle on these math concepts on their own, then you should partner with one of our top scoring SAT tutors to make sure you can properly perform these algebraic concepts under proper testing conditions.

What’s All the Fuss About Modeling

College Board, the company behind the SAT and its redesign, has added a section that tests your math comprehension when it comes to equations and models. Essentially, you’ll be given an equation or model and be required to explain the significance of a number or a variable as part of an equation rather than see if you know how to use it.

Trigonometry and i

I hope you didn't think we were done with the changes, because there are two more topics that have been added to the SAT’s math section. The trigonometry you’ll need to know is the sine and cosine, making up about 5% of the math problems. Just remember SOHCAHTOA:

  •    Sine equals Opposite over Hypotenuse
  •    Cosine equals Adjacent over Hypotenuse
  •    Tangent equals Opposite over Adjacent

i is also new to the SAT and for these math problems, you need to know two things:

  •    i = √(−1)
  •    i2 = −1

Make the Most of Your Study Prep

No excuses, pair yourself with a top-scoring SAT tutor, practice your mental math, dedicate the bulk of your study time to mastering algebra, and make sure you have a general grasp on trigonometry and I, but don’t make them the bulk of your study time. Don’t cram for this section of the SAT! You will need to space out your studying to make sure you genuinely understand what you’re doing.

There are so many changes to the redesigned SAT as a whole and the math section definitely received an overhaul. Geometry isn’t as prevalent as it has been in the past, but algebra has becoming drastically more important to the test. You also need to brush up on your mental math, because you will not be allowed to use a calculator on half of the math problems. But if you read over the changes carefully and study with a good tutor, you’re going to do well on the SAT!

What do you think of the changes to the SAT math section? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!

Get The Most Important College Admissions Data In The Last 12 Months Delivered Straight To Your Inbox Now.