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On both the SAT and ACT, it’s important to know how to translate words into math. Make sure you read all word problems carefully. I often tell my students that every section on the SAT and ACT is a reading section.

When you run into the following phrases on a test, be prepared to translate them into math! Here are some helpful hints:


Translating Words into Algebra

ADDITION: increased by, more than, combined, together, total of, sum, plus, added to
SUBTRACTION: decreased by, minus, less, difference between, difference of, less than, fewer than
MULTIPLICATION: of, times, multipled by, product of, by a factor of
DIVISION: per, out of, ratio of, quotient of, percent (divide by 100)
EQUATION: is, are, was, were, will be, gives, yields, sold for

Let’s look at some examples.


Twenty-eight is what percent of two hundred?

28 = (x/100) * 200


How much greater is the product of thirty-three and twenty-four than the sum of eleven and eight?

(33 * 24) - (11+8)


If the ratio of tables to chairs in the office is three to two, how many chairs are in an office with nine tables?

3/2 = 9/x


The length of a room is forty more feet than its width. What is the area of the room in terms of its width?



Mike has x books, which is three times the amount of Joe but only a third the amount of Sue. How many books do Joe and Sue have together?

x/3 + 3x


Were you able to translate these questions? If not, brush up on your algebra! If you’re prepping for the SAT Math test, our textbook SAT Math Mastery Vol.1 will cover everything you could possibly need to beat Algebra word problems and get higher SAT math scores with more confidence.

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