Basic statistics problems make up about 4.1% of all the problems of the SAT Math Calculator section, and provide a basis of knowledge for more advanced statistics questions, which make up another 3.3% of the calculator section. This might sound intimidating, but like most math, you just have to break it into its core components. Here’s what you need to know about the Math SAT’s statistics questions.
As far as SAT statistics questions go, the mean is probably the simplest. The mean is what many questions on the SAT are asking for when they ask for the “average.” You find the mean by adding the data up and then dividing that by the number of data points.
Sometimes, questions on the SAT will give you the mean, and all the info except for one of the values in the original dataset and ask you to find the missing value. In that case, set up the equation, but replace the missing data point with an ‘x’ and the mean with the mean given. Anything is possible with a little applied algebra.
The median is the “middle value” when data is ordered low to high. There’s only one median per data set. If the data set has an even number of values, there will be two “middle values.” In that case, find the average of those two values.
Sometimes on the Math SAT, they will have a frequency table or graph instead of giving you a list of numbers. In a frequency table, they give you a list of numbers, and then tell you how often they appear in the data set. If that’s the case, you can count inwards to find the middle value using the frequencies. If you have to write out the sorted data set, that’s fine. You want to aim for accuracy here.
The mode is the number which appears the most in a data set. There can be more than one mode if there are multiple numbers that tie for most common.
If this is a frequency table, it will be the value with the highest frequency, because that value will appear the most in the data set.
The range is the difference between the highest and lowest values. Think of it as the distance between the most extreme values. If the lowest number in a set is 5, and the highest is 15, then the range will be 10. There’s no such this as a negative range, as it’s a distance. -5 and -10 are only 5 apart, so the range of a dataset with those two numbers as the extremes would be 5.
Saving the hardest concept for last, the standard deviation is the average distance of the data from the set’s average. Now, good news, they’ll never ask you to calculate the standard deviation on the SAT. What you need to know is that if a set is more spread out, the standard deviation will be bigger, because it will deviate more; if the data is more clustered together, the standard deviation will be smaller. Also, a data set that’s all made up of one number has a standard deviation of zero, because it doesn’t deviate at all.
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That’s all! Now go get ready for the SAT! If you want more SAT and ACT prep advice sure to join our mailing list for a free 27-item checklist and 30-day free SAT email course.