Just studying math won’t always tell you the best method to answer a question. The strategies and techniques in this chapter, and throughout the Prep Guide, will give you tools to improve your reasoning skills. By gaining insight into SAT reasoning, you will be able to solve problems more efficiently and more accurately.

Test Design

To succeed on the SAT, you need to understand the design of the test.

The four types of questions in the SAT Quantitative Reasoning section don’t just test math skills, they also test critical thinking. Answering the questions depends as much on your reasoning ability as it does on your math knowledge. If you just work through SAT on autopilot, you will not be working efficiently and you will not maximize your score.

You need to know various approaches and strategies to problem solving and reasoning. The 800score SAT Prep Guide teaches you the methods for getting to the right answer for each of the four types of questions.

In the following sections of this chapter, we’ll cover the types of questions on the Quantitative Reasoning section of the SAT in detail. The four types of questions are:

  • Multiple Choice (one answer)
  • Multiple Choice (one or more answers)
  • Numeric Entry
  • Quantitative Comparison

The Quant section will consist of 7 to 8 Quantitative Comparison questions and 9 to 10 general problem solving questions. The latter can have any of the other three question formats.

Additionally, there are usually three data interpretation questions. All three will be based on the same data set presented in tables, graphs or other display formats. These questions are multiple-choice and may have just one answer or more than one answer.

Strategies

The design of the SAT means you may need to modify your test-taking strategies from other tests you’ve taken.

The SAT has the option to mark and return to questions, but be careful how you use this option. Even though you can mark a question to return to it, you should never leave a question unanswered because you may not have time to return to it. Even a guess is better than no answer at all.

You should mark a question where you don’t know the math, don’t see a shortcut or know it could take too much time to answer. In these cases, mark the question, make a guess and move on. This will save more time for other questions that you know how to solve.

Multiple-choice questions with more than one answer may be questions you want to mark for review. Credit is only given if you select all of the correct answer choices, which means guessing can be more difficult.

As with all timed tests, you have to be aware of how much time you are spending on each question. Doing about 20 questions in 35 minutes means you have less than 2 minutes per question. You need to “watch the clock,” but don’t let it distract you from the answering the questions.

The SAT provides an on-screen calculator, but you should limit how much you use this tool. Using the calculator takes time, so often you can use methods to bypass calculations. This exemplifies the importance of having good reasoning skills in addition to math knowledge.

Calculator Use

The SAT provides an on-screen calculator, but you should limit how much you use this tool. Using the calculator takes time, so often you can use methods to bypass calculations. This exemplifies the importance of having good reasoning skills in addition to math knowledge.

Scoring

When you take the SAT, there will be at least two Quantitative sections. The first section is the same difficulty level for everyone. There are three difficulty levels for the second section. Your difficulty level varies based on your score on the first section. The difficulty level on the second section defines boundaries for your final score.

If your score is high on the first section, the second section will have the most difficulty. This means your score cannot go below a certain number and you can possibly go to the highest possible score level.

If you have a middle score on the first section, the second section will have moderate difficulty. Your final score will have upper and lower boundaries so you cannot get a higher or lower score than the middle range.

If your score on the first section is low, the second section will be at the easiest level, which will place a ceiling on your final score.

Getting to the Answer

Your goal when taking the SAT is to pick the right answers on a multiple-choice questions and enter the correct answer for fill-in questions. The more questions you answer correctly, the better your score.

You are not being graded on style. It doesn’t matter if you find the answer following the usual routine. In fact, the fastest way to an answer often does not involve using a traditional method, but rather a method geared specifically to the SAT.

Each question may have several possible approaches, so you need to develop an ability to recognize a fast and effective way to solve different question types. Because your objective is to find the correct answer choice as quickly as possible, choosing the right strategies is a very important part of doing well on the SAT.

Scratch Paper

You will be given scratch paper for the SAT. You will have to do the calculations in the Quant section and some students will diagram their reading comprehension questions.

Other Tips

  • Play with some of the math. Create tables of numbers. Just writing down the numbers is a good way to get ideas.
  • Sketch graphs or figures – seeing these can help you solve problems.
  • Staying physically relaxed during the test is very important. If you find yourself tensing up, put your marker down and take a couple of deep breaths. This will help you stay calm.
  • Don’t panic if you are suddenly stumped by a question. Stay calm and work through the techniques to either solve the problem or make an educated guess and move on.
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