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SAT Math Strategies

How to Approach the Math Section?

What Strategy to Adopt?

No passport (to the SAT Math exam)? No problem (on the SAT Math exam). Also, keep an eye on your passport when you travel.

No matter how much planning you do, no trip is ever truly stress-free. Whether you're dealing with luggage that managed to journey 2,000 miles in the wrong direction, reservations to a hotel that doesn't actually exist (or from which you can never leave), or a bus that goes to nowhere, traveling is full of surprises. If this sounds familiar to you, you'll know that it never helps to panic…as tempting as it might seem.

A little patience, some quick thought, and a lot of common sense can get you a long way to where you need to be. So can our test strategies, so go ahead and hop on the bus—it looks like it's going the right way. Probably.

Use Logic

Logic: It's your best friend, except for your actual best friends in real life.

Imagine this:

Because of an electrical failure at the train station in Rome (or something; your Italian isn't terrible, but the public announcement system wasn't talking about how to get to the bathroom), you're half an hour late to the airport and miss your flight back to Spain. The attendant at the airport offers to put you on the first flight out in the morning, and now you need to figure out how to get through the night. You have three options:

  1. Stay in the airport and try to get cozy on one of those torturous-looking contraptions ("chairs") near the gate.
  2. Get the cheapest room available in the Hilton Rome Airport, which isn't very cheap at all, but the Hilton has a shuttle that will take you directly to the flight in the morning.
  3. Go back to your actually cheap hostel, several miles away from the airport, where you would save money but risk missing your flight again in the morning.

In this case, the right answer probably depends on the circumstances. Broke as a joke? You'll probably be camping out at the gate, even though you'll be cranky and sore by the time you get back to Spain. Money no object? Say helloooo to the Hilton, big spender.

Basically, gather all the information you need, and then use simple logic to make your decision. Consider the following:

Example 1:

If a – c = 3 and b + c = 18, then b + a =

  • A) 6
  • B) 10
  • C) 15
  • D) 21
  • E) 36

If you look carefully at the problem, you'll notice that combining (a – c) and (b + c) cancels out c, leaving you with (a + b). Reversing this gives you (b + a), so all you have to do is add 3 + 18 to get answer choice (D). You could also put the first equation in terms of a, substitute that in the second equation, and solved—but wasn't this way faster?

Example 2:

If 6a + 5b = a, which of the following must equal 10a + 10b?

  • A) 0
  • B) 2
  • C) 10b
  • D) 20a
  • E) ab

Subtracting a from both sides to simplify will leave you with the equation 5a + 5b = 0. You can multiply the entire equation by 2 to get 10a + 10b, but that's going to give us 0 anyway. Save yourself some time—(A) is the correct answer.

*SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product.