Digital SAT Math Edition

What to expect on the math section

In a previous post we outlined the switch from paper and pencil to an entirely digital platform the College Board is implementing for all of its tests (SAT, PSAT, APs, etc.), and in this post we are going to take a closer look at the Math module(s) of the SAT.

The Basics

The new math section is split into two modules, has fewer questions (44 vs 58) and a shorter time frame (70 minutes vs 80), although technically you have more time per question. Unlike the paper based test, students are allowed to use a graphing calculator on both modules. For students without a graphing calculator, the digital testing platform will provide a pop-up calculator for use during the test. It’s important to remember that the test is adaptive. Questions on both modules are ranked easy, medium, and hard, and scores are determined by the combination of the number of questions answered correctly AND the difficulty level.This means that a student’s performance on the first module directly impacts the difficulty level of the second module. In order to achieve a score higher than a 600 on the math section, a student has to qualify for the more difficult second module. For more information about adaptive testing, read this post. 

The Content

There are four main categories on the SAT Math test: 

  1. Algebra
  2. Advanced Math
  3. Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  4. Geometry and Trigonometry
Here’s a quick rundown of each category: 
Some key things to know

Algebra: 13-15 questions

  • Linear equations
  • Linear functions
  • Linear inequalities
  • Systems of linear equations (more than one variable)
  • Basic linear equation formats such as y=mx+b
  • How to graph or analyze a graph of a linear equation
  • Definitions for slope, x-axis, y-axis, etc.

Advanced Math: 13-15 questions

  • Nonlinear equations
  • Nonlinear systems of equations
  • Nonlinear inequalities

Advanced Math: 13-15 questions

  • Nonlinear equations
  • Nonlinear systems of equations
  • Nonlinear inequalities

Problem Solving and Data Analysis: 5-7 questions

  • Rates, Ratios, Proportion
  • Percents
  • Probability
  • Basic Statistical Relationships
    • Mean, Median, Mode
  • Evaluating Data from Graphs, Tables, and Charts
  • Word problems! It is important to know that the College Board is emphasizing the ability to do the math and not on interpreting language cues in the word problem. This means that word problems should be slightly easier to decipher.

Geometry and Trigonometry: 5-7 questions

  • Area and Volume
  • Lines and Angles
  • Triangles
    • Right triangles and right triangle trigonometry
  • Circles
  • Formulas for finding the dimensions, area, or volume of different 2D and 3D shapes

As mentioned above, the College Board is putting more emphasis on completing the mathematical operations than on interpreting word problems. This means that it is imperative for students to be comfortable with a wide range of operations involving both simple and complex polynomials and equations. The ability to limit mistakes and check work efficiently will also help students earn higher scores. For example:

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