While the SAT Math section might not be as fast-paced as the ACT Math section, but many students can still find themselves running out of time before they finish. So, how do you avoid this fate? Follow these six tips on how to beat the time limit on the SAT Math section, and you’ll soon end up finishing before time is called.
1. Write Out Your Work
Write out every step of your work. Mental math might feel faster, but it’s often unreliable. If you’re trying to keep a lot of numbers in your head, it’s more likely that you misremember one or mix something up. You might even stop your work a step early, because you’re so focused on the numbers. Write the numbers out, and write out each step you take to get to your answer. Also, if you end up with something that is clearly wrong or isn’t an answer choice, it’s easier to track down where you went wrong. This might feel like it takes a little longer, but it’s the first step towards beating the time limit on the SAT Math Section.
2. Embrace the Slow Way
Sometimes, students know there’s a simple, fast way to solve a problem, but can’t remember it. This can lead to wasted time as you try to remember the way, when you could have been spending time working through the problem. The slow way you remember is always faster than the fast way you don’t. If you know a way to solve the problem, don’t spend time any more time searching for the best way. Keep momentum and start on that slow way.
3. Practice the Basics
Most of the SAT Math section is Algebra. Making sure you’re well-practiced in your basic algebra will go a long way towards making the Math SAT faster for you. Being able to complete the basic work accurately and fluidly will mean you have greater confidence in your work and more time to spend on the more difficult SAT math questions.
4. Learn to Recognize Common Math Principles
The SAT will be a lot easier if you can recognize some common math principles like the side lengths for common right triangles and the difference of squares. Memorizing the common right triangles (like the 3-4-5 triangle) will help you on most of the trigonometry problems, as the SAT rarely involves a right triangle that isn’t one a common right triangle. The SAT likes problems that utilize the difference of squares in creative ways, so being able to recognize differences of squares will help you beat the time limit on the SAT Math Section.
5. Read the Questions Carefully
Read the questions carefully the first time you go through them. Figure out what it wants, and a way to get it. This way, you don’t have to go back several times to double-check you’re on the right path. Identify what the problem wants as an answer. Then, identify what information it’s giving you to get that answer. This will make the difficult word problems easier.
6. Move On From Problems That Stump You
If you are truly stuck on a problem, learn how to move on. While the Math SAT section goes in order from the questions most students get right to the ones the most students get wrong, spending too much time on one problem cuts down on the time you have for all the problems after it. If you are truly stumped by a problem, put a star by it and come back to it after you’ve finished the rest of the test. Just because one problem stumps you, it doesn’t mean the rest will. So put a star by the puzzling problem, and move on to the problems you can answer.
That’s all! I hope you now feel equipped to beat the time limit on the Math SAT! You can do this! 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.