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! Google “SAT math word problems” or “ACT math word problems” and start practicing!

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