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What Math is on the SAT?

What Math is on the SAT?

Take an informed approach to this challenging portion of the SAT 

The SAT math section is all about ensuring that you are able to complete the kinds of math tasks that will likely be expected of you in a college setting, especially if you plan on pursuing any degrees in the maths or sciences. As a result, the SAT covers the most important math skills in depth rather than covering every math topic you have learned up to this point. Fortunately, this makes preparing for the SAT simpler since you can focus your time and energy on a handful of skills rather than relearning years and years of math concepts. 

The math section of the SAT includes multiple choice and gridded response questions, questions where you have to respond with specific numbers you have calculated. These questions are also broken up into calculator and non-calculator sections, so you will be required to calculate using paper and pencil. Overall, you will have 55 minutes for the calculator portion of the test (38 questions) and 25 minutes for the no-calculator portion (20 questions). From both sections, 45 questions are multiple choice and the remaining 13 are the student-produced grid responses. 

Key Topics Covered in SAT Math 

The SAT covers three main areas: The Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. These are broad categories that will ask you to apply all sorts of math skills in combinations to tackle a wide array of questions. The Heart of Algebra targets  linear equations, tasking you with creating equations that represent a situation and solving equations and systems of equations. Problem Solving and Data Analysis asks you to use ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to solve problems in real-world scenarios in order to demonstrate your quantitative literacy. You’ll also be required to analyze graphs and statistical data sets. Lastly, Passport to Advanced Math focuses on the math you will need to pursue further study in a discipline like science or economics and for career opportunities in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The Passport to Advanced Math area requires familiarity with more-complex equations or functions, which will prepare you for calculus and advanced courses in statistics.

Questions are spread fairly evenly throughout the test to assess each major set of skills equally. To do well, you’ll need to be a well-rounded math student. 


Number of Questions 

Percentage of Test

The Heart of Algebra 



Problem Solving and Data Analysis



Passport to Advanced Math



As part of these major topics, you will need to demonstrate mastery of the following math skills.

Scoring in SAT Math 

The complete SAT is scored from 400 to 1600, which is a combination of the two sections of the test, the math and reading/writing portions, which both account for 200 to 800 points of the total score. The scoring varies slightly from test to test simply because some versions are more difficult than others, but if you get 57 or 58 of the 58 questions on the math test correct, you will likely receive an 800.  

You should note that the SAT totals up the number of questions you get right rather than deducting the number you get wrong from some starting number. This means that you are incentivized to guess on any questions you are unsure of or do not have time for. 

Strategies for Tackling SAT Math 

The math SAT can be daunting, but with the proper preparation, you can set yourself up for success if you start early enough.

Review Basic Concepts 

Look over the main skills listed above for the Math SAT. Pay attention to how these skills are broken down into sub-skills, and review those systematically. Look for foundational skills that feed into multiple areas like being able to solve simple equations and prioritize studying those if they give you trouble. Take time to study over several weeks at least. Since the SAT is skill-based, you will not be able to simply memorize a few terms in preparation. You need to practice and master skills to do well, a process that takes time. 

Practice Time Management

Every second counts on the SAT, so learning to allocate your time is invaluable. Each question is worth the same number of points, so you do not want to spend too long on one question at the expense of getting to other problems. Taking timed practice tests can help you get a sense of how long you need for each kind of question. Keep your eye on the clock in both practice and the real thing to determine if you need to speed up or, at the very end, begin making educated guesses.  

Understand Question Types and Formats 

Remember that the SAT math section has both multiple choice questions and “student-produced responses” which will require you to fill in a grid with a numerical answer that you then bubble. Since the rest of the test is multiple choice, these open-response questions can throw you if you are not prepared. You should also remember that many of the questions will be more involved than simply asking you to solve for “x” in an equation. You will have word problems, graphs, and geometry problems to tackle, so you will not be able to answer many questions in just a few seconds. Lastly, the math is broken up into calculator and no calculator sections. The calculator section is much longer than the calculator-free portion, but you will still need to be ready to do some figuring with pencil and paper, and that can take longer.   

Use the Calculator Efficiently 

On the parts of the test where you can use a calculator, you need to use the machine wisely. You will be expected to bring your own calculator, so make sure that you have fresh batteries and that the calculator is in working order. You should take some time to know how to use the device. Graphing calculators in particular can be incredibly helpful on the SAT, but they are a little complicated to use. Make sure to learn how to graph and complete complex functions in the calculator before test day arrives.  

Address Test Anxiety and Other Test Day Problems 

The SAT is an important test on your journey to getting into college, so it is completely normal to be a little nervous. However, if left unaddressed, those anxieties can significantly hamper your ability to do well on test day. To ease testing stress, focus on steady, consistent prep work and remind yourself of everything you have done to prepare. On test day, make sure to avoid too much caffeine since that can make you even more nervous. 

You also need to take care of your physical needs if you want to do well. Start the day off with a balanced breakfast, but don’t overdo it. Dress in layers in case the testing room is too cold or hot, and bring a snack to eat during the breaks. You should also stay hydrated by bringing some water in a sealed container. Make sure to check local testing site restrictions first, though. 

Study Materials for SAT Math 

Fortunately, you are not in the struggle to prepare for the math SAT alone. You’ll find plenty of resources to help you ready yourself for this challenging test. 

With the right mindset and a thorough preparation plan, you should have no trouble finding success on the math SAT. Whether you’re taking it for the first time or aiming for a higher score, the secret to success is practicing those vital math skills, reviewing the ins and outs of the test’s format and question types, and consulting with professionals like Apex’s team of experienced teachers and tutors.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What level of math is on the SAT? 

The math on the SAT primarily covers topics in algebra, geometry, and some basic trigonometry. You’ll see topics present up through high school-level Algebra 2.

Is there a calculator section on the SAT math test? 

Yes, there is a calculator section on the SAT math test that makes up the majority of the math section. However, there is also a shorter, no-calculator section.

How is the math section of the SAT scored? 

The math section of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800 points, with 400 being the midpoint. Your raw score (number of correct answers) is converted to a scaled score using a specific formula that varies slightly for different versions of the test. This score will be combined with how you do on the language section to give you your final score. 

What is the format of the math questions on the SAT? 

The math questions on the SAT include multiple-choice questions and student-produced grid-in questions. Multiple-choice questions have four answer choices, and grid-in questions require you to provide your own numerical answer and bubble in each digit. 

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