The SAT is designed to be taken by every high school student in the country, which means it can only test math concepts that every student has had experience with.
The developers of the test make it hard is by presenting questions in challenging and usual ways—ways that your students never see in their math classes—and by putting them on a time crunch. The SAT test is like a marathon. Your students have to maintain their mental fortitude, all while preserving time so that they can finish the entire test.
Many students finish no more than 75% of the math section, and, before they know it, they only have 10 minutes left! Yikes!
Let’s take a look at the time breakdown:
Time in Minutes
# of Questions
Time per Question
1 minute, 15 seconds
1 minute, 27 seconds
As you can see, time is not on your students’ side. They have to conserve it while utilizing their math application skills.
But don’t despair! In this guide, we’ll walk you through the timing of the test and give you SAT math hacks on how to help your students beat the clock and maximize their time.
Tip #1: Eliminate Answers
The new SAT has 4 answer choices instead of 5. That’s a big advantage to you. That’s one less answer to eliminate.
Elimination matters because these answers have a lot of repetition in them. When you see that kind of repetition, you have a HUGE opportunity to speed up the solving of that particular problem. Essentially, you won’t have to solve the entire problem, and then you can derive your answer from small parts of the problem that will allow you to eliminate certain answers. This will be a big help when you start to get to the end of the section, and is ENORMOUS TIME SAVER.
This really comes in handy for the no-calculator section! Let’s take a look at an inequalities problem below:
If you read the graph above from left to right, there are two features that stand out:
1) The line is dashed, which means the solution DOES NOT include the line. This eliminates the following notation: ≤ and ≥ . Thus, you can ELIMINATE choices C) and D)
2) The graph is shaded below the line, which is represented by x+y. In the slope-intercept form, y<−x−1. Therefore, x+y is less than −1.
If you can see the features mentioned above right away, you can eyeball the answer to this problem! No writing or calculations necessary!
TIP #2: Replace With Numbers
This hack is a true classic! If you encounter a word problem that includes all variables and no numbers, it can be very daunting and a time drainer.
Putting numbers in place of the variables will open your eyes to possible solutions. The mental juices will start to flow!!
Check out the problem below:
If r/s = 4
then what is the value of 8 *(s/r) ?
In order to find the value of the second expression, 8 , you can assign numbers to r and s that produce 4.
Let’s choose r = 16 and s = 4. Therefore r/ s= 16/4 = 4
Let’s take those values and plug them into 8*(s/r) . You get the following
8 *(4/16) = 2
Therefore, the answer is B)
As you can see, this very powerful strategy can be used on multiple choice questions as well as the grid-in questions.
TIP #3: Remember your linear equation short cuts!
Linear equations are part of the Heart of Algebra category, which accounts for the largest part of the Math section (33%). There are quite a few linear equation questions in that category, so it is good idea to know some time saver short cuts:
1) The slope shortcut
If a linear equation is in the standard form, don’t waste time changing it to the slope-intercept form to find the slope. You can find it in the standard form
When Ax+By = C, slope = −A/B. You don’t need to change to y = mx+b
Each answer choice in the problem is a linear equation in standard form.
Using the formula, slope = −A/B , you will see that the last equation on the list will produce a slope of -2.
2x+y = 7, where A = 2 and B = 1
Slope = −2/1 = −2
Therefore, the answer is D)
2) Parallel and Vertical Lines
Lines parallel to the y-axis are vertical and lines parallel to the x-axis are horizontal
Vertical line implies x = coordinate which line goes through
Horizontal line implies y = coordinate which line goes through
A line that is parallel to the x-axis is horizontal. Therefore, it goes through the y-axis. If the line passes through point (7,6), it will cross the y-axis at (0,6)
The line goes through the 6 on the y-axis, therefore the equation is y = 6
The answer to the example above is D).
Teach your students to work smart!
Are these going to work for every problem and for every situation? No. But what you can get from these hacks is an easier way, to help lead students to the correct answer–one that preserves time. After all, correct answers are what give you a good score. That’s a simple concept, right?
Are you taking the SAT® soon? Leave us a comment below! If you want more tips, tricks, & strategies for the SAT®, check out some of our other videos and blog posts at the bottom of this page. Also, subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date on all our strategy guides, informational blogs, promotions, coupons, and upcoming giveaways!